FLEXI FIT?

FLEXI FIT?

Matt Cooke, senior product

Matt Cooke, senior product marketing manager, iPass

HOW CAN MOBILE PHONES MAKE WORKING FLEXIBLY EASIER?

Events in the past few years have provided an interesting wake up call for businesses in the UK; face the fact that times are changing and our working habits must reflect this.

The London bombings in 2005, as well as the recent extreme weather conditions and G20 riots this year, have all been examples of when a substantial chunk of London’s workforce was made to log on from an alternate location.

How to be productive

Following The Government’s Operational Efficiency report in April, with UK national debt set to surpass £2 trillion civil servants are being encouraged to make better use of office space and allow vacant property to be sold, forcing them to work elsewhere. In light of all these pressures, how can companies effectively enable the workforce to remain productive outside of the office walls?

The benefits of flexible working practices include improved employee

productivity, where downtime is turned into productive time, reduced sick leave and absenteeism goes down by four to five days per year, and employees’ carbon footprints shrink as they no longer need to be in a business location to conduct operations.

The UK government has shown its support of this working trend by enforcing legislation that gives parents with children under 16 the right to work flexibly. A TUC spokesman commented that the new law is not only important in allowing individuals to better manage work with other commitments, but as research has shown, it enables businesses to operate more effectively in a changed society.

It is also a fact that fresh talent is entering the workplace with a new set of expectations. ‘Generation Y’ has prioritised work-life balance, and employers are having to meet their demands by taking their work flexibility demands seriously.

 

Solid business proposition

Flexible working is still tarnished as an HR benefit as opposed to a solid business growth proposition. But the recession has forced many companies to rethink how they can save money by reducing their office space for example while enabling mobile workers to stay productive.

According to a report recently carried out by advertising company, CBS Outdoor, with research firm, Future Foundation, mobile working practices are boosting the nation’s economy by around £9 billion a year. Relaxing the constraints on the workforce can actually help to attract and retain more talent but companies have to be able to see transparent ROI from this working practice.

What holds many back, particularly in the SME market, is the preconception that this is going to be a costly and complicated process. However, mobilising the workforce can be inexpensive, yet still effective and businesses from a variety of sectors are proving it. So how can companies initiate a mobile strategy? The huge array of technologies available can be daunting.

There are an increasing number of shiny handhelds entering the market and being brought in to the office by employees. In fact, according to research carried out by In-Stat, a market intelligence business, smartphone use is set to double by 2013 and O2 has already sold over one million iPhones in the UK.

 

Keep it simple

However in reality, the workforce can start to work flexibly by simply using a laptop and mobile phone. In many cases keeping it simple is crucial. Low employee adoption is a common complaint from companies that invest in technology as a quick fix, but then don’t pay the necessary attention to product training or even take the time to encourage staff to make full use of the new tool.

When looking to deploy a mobile working strategy, companies need to also be aware of the possible risks associated with sending the workforce out to connect in the wild. With employees becoming increasingly mobile, working anywhere and at any time, security must be a priority, particularly in light of recent scrutiny over the true safety of public WiFi.

According to security firm, SafeNet, more than 40% of businesses do not have security policies around accessing company data through mobile devices, almost double the figures since 2008. The IT manager will need to have complete control over enforcing VPN access and terminating a connection if the firewall has failed; connecting to public networks without this is like leaving the key in the lock. Keeping all remote devices up to date with patches will also help to further batten down the hatches to prevent any fresh security threats.

 

Think outside office walls

With the above in mind, should the corporate world be taking the benefits of flexible working more seriously? The answer is, absolutely. With the increasingly prevalent availability of WiFi and 3G mobile broadband, connectivity-hungry business users are demanding, and are being served, more and more ways to access corporate resources.

It is important that companies take stock and think outside of the box (or the office walls,) and look at how they can reap the rewards of loosening the leash on their employees.

iPass unifies mobility management for the global enterprise, making mobility simple and affordable by combining worldwide remote and mobile broadband access with comprehensive management control over connectivity, devices and costs.

 
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