There’s a change coming to the way we work. Remote working isn’t anything new, but with technology providing the right tools for the job, the acceptance that it will soon be the norm is. Businesses are already getting fit for purpose by investing in cloud-based software, for example, to ensure that remote teams remain connected and engaged. With mobile technology under the spotlight for business (and the Olympics about to kick off for the summer), here are some tips to get remote:
Get the management on board
Employees must feel comfortable when asking for permission to work from home. To ensure that managers are actively encouraging their teams to embrace remote working, it’s a good idea to explain to the management team why remote working is being introduced and what benefits it will bring to the organisation.
Make sure training is in place and everyone is clear about the rules
Firms should offer training on how to use the technology required and what security issues to be aware of. Clear guidelines can help companies avoid confusion and ensure everyone fully benefits from the extra flexibility that remote working can offer. The guidelines should answer common questions such as how often people can work from home or who has the authority to sign it off.
Keep in touch with each other
Investing in a fibre-optic network can help make sure that data transfer is as fast as possible. Some employees may not have super-fast internet access at home, so it’s a good idea to set up a benefits package, which allows them to get it. If you’re going to do this, do remember that it must be allocated as a taxable benefit.
Make it easy for employees to stay in touch
Employees should be encouraged to stay in touch by phone or instant messaging while out of the office. It’s a good idea to reassess your communication systems and look at how it can be improved to make collaboration easier. Calls can be routed using one number dialling so that staff can be reached via the same phone number on their mobile and desk phones.
Build it into business continuity plans
Remote working can form a key part of organisations’ business continuity plans, enabling staff to continue working if they’re unable to travel to work. This is especially important for frontline staff, such as those in contact centres, as customers won’t expect service to be affected. By providing staff with secure access to your company’s computer systems and Voice over IP (VoIP) to make calls, they can work from their kitchen table, just as they would at their desk - and your customers won’t know the difference!
Get in front of the camera
Many laptops now come with a camera and microphone built in, which means remote workers can still speak to colleagues face-to-face. So that meetings aren’t hindered by network delay, jitter and loss, companies should check that they have enough capacity to support video calls and can assign video a higher Quality of Service (QoS). As with most technologies, it’s best to test it out before initiating a staged rollout.
Use office space more intelligently
Businesses can make big savings on office space through hot-desking schemes. If a percentage of staff is working remotely, fewer desks are needed. When workers come into the office all they have to do is pick a vacant desk and plug in their laptop.
Security isn’t just about four walls and a roof
It’s vital that employees can access essential documents and data securely when working remotely. This is especially true for those workers that need to access sensitive corporate information. A virtual private network (VPN) can provide a virtual ring fence around all of the company’s data, serving as a safety net for the company’s servers and worker’s computers. VPNs are robustly tested, so it’s like the document has never left the building.
Don’t be a slave to your commute
2012 is set to see record levels of tourists coming to the UK. The knock-on effect of that will be congestion on the country’s transport network. Delays to commuting times mean less time in the office for your staff. Unless you’re going to introduce new working hours at peak times this year, then remote working is a good option to consider.
Office of the future
This raises questions about the way businesses currently use office space. We see the office of the future being a lot smaller, desks set-up for hot-desking and a workforce that can easily interchange from working in the office to working from home or at a satellite office.
There will always be a case for having a main office, but if you can make your staff happy by allowing them to work remotely, reduce their commuting time and give staff the freedom to work in a way that suits them, then why wouldn’t you take it?
Tony Grace is chief operating officer of Virgin Media Business.