At all stages of our lives it suits us to have the option of flexible working.
It allows us to give time to our children when they need us, it frees us to spend time with sick or elderly relatives and as we near retirement allows us to reduce our hours in preparation for the future.
Not everyone will take advantage of flexible working opportunities to work from home or to work part-time or job share. But most of us appreciate it when we have a choice and we reward employers who are willing to support our desire for a positive work life balance with our loyalty.
With rapid globalisation in an international marketplace where customers anticipate a 24/7 responsive service, sophisticated IT systems support secure mobile and home working and create the necessary business agility.
More than four million of the UK’s 30million employees now work from home. And a recent report by the Carbon Trust attributes these growing numbers to improvements in technology with faster broadband internet, smart phones, cloud computing and teleconferencing now being more widely available, cheaper and easier to use.
With broadband accessible in 90% of the UK, working from home has the potential to become an even more significant business tool, increasing employee retention, reducing commercial property overheads and cutting our carbon footprint with less commuting and business travel.
Our work place culture is also changing with a more trusting approach towards employees who work from home which is rewarded with greater employee engagement and improved staff retention. Businesses are also more open about exploring innovative approaches to working practices, especially where it makes financial sense and will reduce office overheads and travel costs.
Indeed, British Telecom has estimated that mobile working saves it £35million a year in reduced accommodation and recruitment costs and less absenteeism. But effective flexible and remote working opportunities can only be enabled with tight and efficient IT systems, ensuring benefits are experienced across the whole company whatever the geographical location.
Businesses are understandably concerned about data security where employees are mobile or working remotely. But there are measures that can be applied to ease potential worries. Simple, scalable and secure solutions are essential for effective remote and home-based employees. The implementation of a remote data back-up, managed firewall systems, virtual desktops and remote server monitoring and management makes for a tight and efficient remote system.
The benefits of a managed service like this are that your policies are designed and deployed by security specialists and meet stringent regulatory standards. With round the clock back-up from a helpdesk, new users can be confident of constant support.
Initial investment in the correct infrastructure will always pay dividends. So it’s vital to ensure the business network has the capability for remote working and that the integrity and security of company data can be effectively maintained.
Peter Birkett is chief executive officer of adept4.