Flexible working: How technology keeps it 'business as usual'

Written by Tom Pressley on 20 March 2017 in Opinion
Opinion

Fuze's Tom Pressley outlines how technology makes flexible working possible.

Like most aspects of modern life, the working world has undergone a serious transformation in recent years. The business world has become increasingly interconnected, yet with this globalisation come more disparate workforces, who must find ways to work across different locations and time zones. 

Today’s employees also want to play an active contribution in the business they work for, yet are demanding greater choice over where they are located and how they share knowledge, ideas and experiences. 

With so many companies becoming more dispersed and employees demanding greater flexibility in how and where they work, bringing together the workforce can be a challenge.

And it’s one that is only exacerbated when different teams, departments and offices use different chat, conferencing, video and phone systems to communicate.

The demand for flexible working

A recent report highlights the expectation from UK workers for more flexible working practices. The study of 1,000 workers and 500 teenagers finds 85% of employees believe being able to work flexibly, at times and in locations of their choosing, is important. 

A big majority (83%) also agree it isn’t necessary to be in an office to be productive. Yet the reality is that only 37% of UK workers actually do work outside of the office for some part of their working week, while a further 49% would like to but don’t.  

Trusting your workers to fulfil their tasks remotely without providing them with the tools and systems to do this is a situation that many businesses find themselves in.

Technology is often talked about as the enabler for working from anywhere and 65% of the UK’s workforce agree they could work from home given the right technology. 

We know from our personal lives that location isn’t a barrier to connecting, communicating and getting things done, but in the business world it’s not as straightforward.

Managing the application sprawl

Businesses are built on communication, whether it’s interacting with customers and partners, or sharing ideas and meeting with colleagues. If not physically present, it becomes vital that employees can talk, share and interact as productively and effectively as if they were there in person. 

But this desire to keep connected causes big issues. If remote workers don’t have access to the communications tools available in the office, they simply download and use any number of applications to chat, share files and meet virtually – with many not sanctioned by the business or in the control of the IT department. 

And it’s not just something that’s happening outside of the office either, as the Fuze research shows employees are regularly using the likes of WhatsApp, social media, photo sharing sites and FaceTime alongside approved workplace tools.

The result is a desktop of applications that varies by employee and department, with little standardisation and management. 

Removing communication complexity

Trusting your workers to fulfil their tasks remotely without providing them with the tools and systems to do this is a situation that many businesses find themselves in.

Employees need to be able to connect and collaborate whenever, wherever and however they want, but that doesn’t mean they should be able to download any video or chat app of their choosing. 

Creating a consistent communication and collaboration approach that every employee can experience is critical.

A single, cloud-based platform, which all employees can access regardless of when and where they are working, delivers this consistency, ensuring everyone can benefit from exactly the same rich applications and features, such as voice calls, chat, HD video collaboration and screen sharing. 

The user experience is simplified by removing the need to download and navigate between multiple apps. Every employee uses the cloud to access the same tools, while IT teams have only one system to provision and manage.

If deployed effectively, you’d be hard-pushed to realise that an employee was outside the office (unless you spotted the home working backdrop on your video call).

Work is what you do, not where you go

Applications for sharing, communicating and collaborating that would have featured in an episode of Doctor Who 50 years ago are now integral to our everyday lives.

These technologies have played a key role in making flexible working and constant communication a reality, enabling employers to offer options such as flexi-time or home working alongside established office working.

Yet for flexible working to be effective, aligning the communication technologies that workers use across the business is critical. Virtual workforces will only be truly effective if organisations introduce common tools and applications that are available to every employee, regardless of the device they are using and where they are based.

 

About the author

Tom Pressley is marketing director, EMEA at Fuze

 

 

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