Tube strikes, weather chaos. Should businesses embrace remote working?


By David Sturges, chief operating officer, WorkPlaceLive

This week millions of workers were caught up in commuting chaos in London as Underground workers began a series of planned strikes. London’s Underground rail drivers are planning to strike for two days this week and another two next week, in a row over job cuts.

At the same time, severe storms are continuing to batter many coastal areas in the UK and there seems no let up to the flooding. Yesterday morning there were 47 flood warnings calling for immediate action and some 179 alerts warning of potential flooding.

The financial impact that these strikes and the devastating weather will have on UK businesses is yet to be counted but there is little doubt that productivity levels will be hit hard.

Both these incidences should send a clear message to businesses that they need to support remote working, so people can work just as effectively and productivity from any location –whether that is from their homes, a local café or a client’s office.  The first step to enabling true remote working is putting in place the right technology so staff can access all their software applications and emails remotely, so they don’t have to be tied to the office any longer.

A Vodafone study last year found British businesses can potentially save around £34 billion by freeing up desk space and working more flexibly. The research revealed that working from home is the most common form of flexible working businesses allow; with 42% of companies surveyed offering this. However, despite many business leaders (63%) agreeing that employees don’t need to work the traditional 9 to 5 and that flexible working leads to a happier workforce (62%), nearly a quarter (22%) still don’t have any flexible working policies in place.

In April this year, the law will change and the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees, not just those that have children under the age of 17 or responsibilities as a carer. Flexible working requests often include the right to work remotely for part of the working day or week and UK businesses will need to find ways of enabling greater workforce flexibility without impacting their productivity levels.

What is often overlooked is the fact that flexible working can bring additional benefits for businesses – if companies get it right they might not only succeed in boosting employee morale and productivity, they could save money – cutting out on the costs of renting premises and bills. However, it needs to be supported by the right technology.

With more people using Google Mail and Dropbox, people are getting used to remote access of files and emails, but for many offices to truly offer remote working, employees would need access to accounting packages, databases and CRM systems which can only be offered through a cloud-based, Hosted Desktop service.

Using a hosted desktop, any employee with internet access can access all their emails and business applications in one place using any web-enabled devices such as smartphones, laptops and netbooks. This means they can work productivity from any location so if they are tube strikes, weather issues or any other unforeseen events that make travelling into the office difficult – it doesn’t matter as it can always be business as usual.

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