How Flexible Are You?
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Nope, I’m not asking you to touch your toes (not this time anyway).
I’m talking about flexible working.
How nice would it be to speak to your bosses and ask for the ability to work from the comfort of your own home one day a week, to avoid that commute into work?
Things dreams are made of? In the past maybe.
This summer, all that changed when employees with six months or more service were given the ability to request flexible working. (See the BBC article here).
Now, that doesn’t mean we are all able to work where we want, during the hours we want. Or that businesses have to agree.
But it does pose an interesting question around technology. It's certainly not just a case of getting your emails on your phone - what do you need to consider for flexible working?
Here’s a list, but it’s certainly not exhaustive:
- Can our employees access the systems remotely?
- Do we have the bandwidth to facilitate this?
- How do we call them?
- Are they happy to have calls to their mobiles?
- Are we happy to pay for calling their mobiles?
- What access do we give them outside the office?
- What do they need access to when working from home?
- How often will this happen?
- How many people could work from home at any one moment in time?
- Where will they work when they are “flexible working”?
- Is there a benefit to the business of allowing them to work flexible?
As a father myself, the option to operate from home in the same way as I would in the office is great.
If customers need to reach me, they don’t need to know my home telephone number. Calls go to my office number and I answer them using Lync over our secure VPN (Virtual Private Network), as they would as if I was actually in the office. Similarly, I can access email, CRM, Sharepoint, and all systems I need via my home broadband.
The ability to access systems from home can also work in the company’s favour as well. You could be online at 7.30am before meetings, and in the evenings be updating CRM or even uploading your expenses.
Thinking about this on a mass scale, the benefits potentially don’t stop there. How about:
- Extended operating hours
- Retain key staff who need to work around their other commitments
- Reduce sickness
- Reduce staff turnover
- Customer loyalty
- Improved productivity
Every business could benefit differently, but generally we are quickly moving away from the traditional ‘9 to 5’ culture. Rarely are we all in the same place anyway. How many organisations have their entire sales team in one office?
Collaboration is a buzzword at the moment. You see in it advertisements from the likes of Microsoft through to Mitel. When you look at the collateral out on the web, how often do you see people sitting at banks of desks talking to each other? You don’t, it’s always in their kitchen, coffee shop or restaurant.
In short, I suppose we have gone from talking about flexible working, to it now being a reality and a law in the UK (well the request to flexible working). However, many of us have been doing this for a lot longer than since June 30th 2014 when it became law.
And by offering the right tools, businesses and individuals can become more productive (see Paul Ince’s blog around 'What Productivity Really Means in IT'). IT is the enabler, and the internet is the highway.
The tools we use every day are being designed to make this lifestyle possible. The old “work to live, not live to work” saying seems more poignant than ever and businesses, if they wish to grow, need to retain their key staff, and make them as productive as they possibly can be.
So, utilising the technology available to us, we can ensure we never miss the school nativity play ever again. Just make sure that you consider everything you need to make your flexible environment as safe as possible, and that it is focussed on your customers’ and employees’ needs.
The next time you’re looking to update any of your systems it’s well worth considering the many technologies that will allow simple flexible working. And that means not looking at different elements such as telecoms and IT in isolation - these days they should work hand-in-hand.
For a great run down on the future of business communications, we're hosting a webinar on the 25th September at 11am - well worth an hour of your time.