Nadine is working as a technology strategist for a big international company. Her commute has recently decreased from almost two hours to two minutes. From a packed train journey to twenty steps through the garden to her office pod (aka “the shed”) between the rose bushes and the rotary drier.
Paul, a self-employed web designer, has chosen to work from a shared office in Central London, rather than from his spare bedroom to enjoy the company of other freelancers. Technology enables collaboration, but humans make it real. Sometimes Paul is working in his local coffee shop. Other times in a beach hut in Phuket or an Airbnb flat in Sydney.
Using platforms such as Lync means Nadine and Paul can keep in touch with members of their teams or clients when needed. Adjustments have to be made to working hours when the team is located in a different time zone and decisions sometimes have to wait until the next day. The synced work cycle is an issue rather than a shared space.
There are many terms used for members of this kind of mobile workforce – road warriors, nomad workers, telecommuters, remote worker, teleworkers – and they all share the belief that “work is a thing you do, not a place you go.” According to the Trade Union Congress, the number of people working from home (or indeed anywhere but in the work office) has increased to four million people or 13.7% of the country’s workforce and a further 1.8 million people intend to do so in the future. [source]
Similarly, a recent poll by Investors in People has revealed that a third (34%) of employees would prefer a more flexible approach to working hours rather than a 3% pay rise. [source]
Flexible working is a reality in the UK and, since June 2014, a legal right. Many big international companies such as Virgin, Apple, Intel, Xerox, Dell, Amazon and Kaplan, are proactively offering “WFH” positions. Flexible working is so popular because it benefits both the employer and employee as it:
- provides a better work/home balance
- helps avoid a long commute and the pressure this puts on the environment
- gives a more productive working environment with less office distraction
- enables companies to hire the best people regardless of their location
There is empirical evidence that working from home can lead to an increase in performance, work satisfaction and a decrease of employee turnover. [source]
However, efficient remote working is only possible when it is driven by modern and reliable IT services. Not many employees feel that the reality is quite there yet, with just over one in ten (12%) stating in a YouGov survey that their business’ IT systems weren’t modern enough to facilitate remote working. [source]
However, there is hope, with solutions such as the following helping drive that change:
A L3VPN can serve as a private corporate network which connects customer office locations. This can include DSL services to remote workers’ homes and 3G connectivity, all converged with Fibre and EFM Leased Lines into a single network. Integrating a managed firewall product that supports VPN connections enables home workers to access the internet with third party DSL lines or from the public internet. This is a safe and resilient solution that allows home workers to remotely access the business computer system from virtually anywhere.
Unified Comms as a Service (UCaaS) is a communication solution delivered as a cloud service. It offers many tools which enable flexible working, such as audio and video conferencing, hot desking, BYOD, web collaboration, instant messaging, presence, CRM integration or outlook plug in.
Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is a cloud service in which the back-end of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is hosted by a cloud service provider. This is particularly useful for mobile working practices and BYOD. All of the data sits in secured storage which makes it safe for the user to access it on any device. The desktop looks, feels and functions exactly as in the office environment.
All of these solution have one thing in common – they rely on cloud based technology. Moving a business into the cloud is the essential step towards creating a technical environment which enables flexible and remote working.
However, there are still certain things that can’t get replaced by or simulated in a virtual collaboration environment. Such as the quick catch up in the corridor. The impromptu brainstorm at the water cooler. At least not yet. Surely there will be an app for that soon.