In the world of engineering, working from home was once considered uncommon practice.
Drafting and prototyping often required handling large-format documents that would take up
considerable space and require workers to be physically present, especially when collaborating
with managers and other engineers.

Now, with advances in technology, combined with the COVID-19 crisis and growing demand for
remote employment, companies have been innovating to adapt to the changing work
environment.

 

The Current Landscape

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 13.4 million workers reported they
worked from home in 2010 - growing by more than 4.2 million workers since 1997 and
continuing to grow to this day. Much of this growth pertains to the increased accessibility of
computer software that came about in the 10 years prior.

While advances in technology have made remote employment more prevalent, there is still a
large share of companies that are ill-equipped to handle the high volume of documents, and
complex workflows required in completing daily tasks and projects by a virtual workforce. Often,
managers find themselves participating in an increasing amount of video calls while conversely
using rudimentary software to transfer CAD files and other engineering documents.

This works in some industries; however, it’s inefficient for companies that rely on document-
centric workflows as video conferencing still creates large amounts of audio and video latency -
making it difficult to properly share and edit documents in real-time.

Moreover, much of these workflows need workers to collaborate over key documents and
drawings, often hard to do over video calls. But today’s technology can not only support these
tasks but can increase their velocity while reducing errors in decision-making.

 

Modern Workflow Management

When it comes to digitally managing your workflows, not all software is created equal. Efficiency
is everything, which is why it is so important to make sure that you are using the right tools to
get the job done.

A research study conducted by Dr. Richard Felder concluded that approximately 65% of people
are “visual learners” – meaning the learner must see the information to fully process it. This
study later became the foundation for a standardized test known as the Index of Learning Styles
(ILS).

Studies like these prove using software that allows users to visualize their workflows and the
documents and drawings associated with them can help reduce complexity for both engineers
and managers while improving the speed to which decisions are made.

 

Integrating Workflow and Document Management

Some document management software solutions focus on workflow management, while others
are specifically designed for the safekeeping and transmittal of documents.

Companies benefit the most from all-encompassing, multi-functional workflow and document management
software, especially for engineering and technical tasks.

Rather than jumping between programs, having a single place for workers to store files and
workflows allows users to create a cohesive picture of the process giving managers a clearer
picture of progress and when workflows are being bogged down.

 

Working from Home and Productivity

Studies have reported that more than 83% of those who work from home say that they
experienced an increase in productivity since deciding to work remotely.

For these workers, as well as for the other 17% of employees, it is important to have the proper
tools for success. Having proper systems, in turn, not only allows employees to remain
productive while at home but also allows managers to increase the level of accountability
among employees.

 

Software Companies and Remote Employment

Many technology firms are now becoming advocates of working from home because it allows
them to recruit top talent regardless of their geographic location. This is an especially important
practice in industries where employee scarcity is prevalent, such as the software and
engineering services industries.

In 2016, approximately 41% of engineers reported that they worked from home.

Firms have no choice but to offer extremely competitive benefits to attract skilled graduates on
the job market, and even seek employees not willing to relocate for their jobs. Technology can
now come to the rescue and allow employers to broaden their reach and flexibility.

 

Managing Employees who are Working from Home

While software certainly improves the accessibility of information, it is important to make sure
that as a manager, you are taking the necessary measures to ensure communication and
collaboration for your team.

Creating an effective way to connect with employees is vital to the success of the manager-
employee relationship; and subsequently the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of project results.
By creating a standard of communication in conjunction with a centralized workflow and
document management system you can now create a “digital office.”

You need to find the tools that work best for you and your business. Many of these tools are
available only in advanced workflow and document management systems, ones that help
managers create an environment that connects engineers with their team members and
management; ultimately creating a better and simpler way to manage their workflows.

 

 

Colin Meyer is Marketing Manager for eQuorum, a leading technology provider for
engineering workflow and document management solutions.