There is a big question looming over the minds of today’s businesses: how do we continue meeting the expectations and technical demands of the modern workforce, while supporting the needs of the business?
Employees are increasingly influencing the terms of employment, with one in three workers under 30 saying that, more than salary, they would prioritise the flexibility to work anywhere at any time, followed by social media freedom and the ability to use personal devices at work when assessing a job offer.
This is putting the onus on businesses to develop a strategy that combines progressive employment policies, with a robust technical infrastructure. The companies that fail to adapt to more amenable ways of working such as telecommuting will be the ones left behind.
So what does greater flexibility really mean for businesses? Is there a risk that employees will become less productive? Can they be trusted to do their jobs without being constantly present? What about data security, with employees accessing and sharing files remotely? Could this make businesses more vulnerable to data breaches? Will telecommuting isolate employees and impact the overall quality of work or their ability to collaborate?
And what does greater flexibility mean for employees? Will satisfaction rates rise if business hours are invested in “work” rather than wasted on lengthy commutes? If people can more easily meet family needs and personal obligations could this boost morale and company commitment?
One of the most sensible things a business can do to prepare for and manage flexible working is unify its communications. By integrating all fixed, mobile and desktop communications services into one ‘unified’ platform, employees will have the tools they need to work outside of the office.
By combining these transformative technologies with the right telecommuting strategy, companies can improve productivity and save costs without creating unnecessary security risks for the business.
If an employee is always within reach of customers, clients and colleagues then it doesn’t really matter whether they are at their desk, in a coffee shop between meetings or working from home.
By unifying communications and providing each employee with one single phone number across their fixed, mobile and desktop phones as well as one voicemail box and one contact directory, calls and messages can always be routed to the right person.
This is a win for the employee, who can now be reached as easily as if they were sitting at their desk and a cost-saving strategy for the business, which can gradually move away from a dependence on expensive on-site PBXs.
Extending the unified communications approach to include collaboration tools, can also help to prevent remote working employees from feeling cut-off from colleagues. If someone can’t find a file on the server they can simply instant message their colleague to help them locate it.
If another is inspired by an idea for a client they can video conference in their team mates to sound it out. Or if a team needs to collectively work on a large report they can send the latest iteration back and forth using enterprise social media tools.
This helps to maintain a collaborative culture where knowledge is shared, ideas are bounced and people feel part of a team.
With the right tools employees can work productively from the location that best suits them, on their chosen devices and at the times that fit best around their personal circumstances.
To support more flexible working practices, however, businesses need to first put the right mobile security strategies in place.
By hosting applications in the cloud, CIOs can provide real-time protection, scanning all traffic to and from company's mobile devices, safeguarding against malicious attack and blocking inappropriate content without impacting on device performance. And this can be seamlessly integrated into existing mobile data management strategies and quickly deployed at a local and even global level.
It also removes the need to install security services on site-based server equipment, which can be resource-intensive for the IT team to manage.
Enabling a telecommuting culture
There is a strong case for telecommuting. Employee expectations are shifting, and companies need to be ready for this new reality. That means inclusive policies that respect the personal commitments of employees and a total communications strategy that ensures employees feel fully connected, regardless of how they choose to work, and which device they choose to use.
Getting this right means having the business agility to attract the best and the brightest workers of today, while future-proofing for tomorrow.