Britain’s opt-out from the EU Working Time Directive has produced a lot of furious debate. Derek Williamson urges businesses to consider flexible working practices as a mutually beneficial solution for both employers and employees – and as a way of taking out some of the heat …
This complex and emotive issue has attracted much attention to date. While the opt-out remains in place for the UK for the time being, the future remains unclear.
"Mobile working enables staff to make more effective use of their deadtime’ – waiting at an airport, travelling, or simply waiting for a meeting to start…"
In a white paper entitled, ‘Time for Deadtime Directive’, T-Mobile is calling for all parties to take a fresh look at flexible working practices as a mutually beneficial solution.
The UK government has recognised that a flexible workforce is a more productive workforce. Indeed this is reflected in recent research, which found that companies with dedicated employees are outperforming those with unmotivated staff by over 50% .
However, any strategies to increase productivity should not necessarily mean working longer hours for those that do not wish to. Rather, people should be allowed to work on their own terms and take advantage of solutions that enable them to work smarter.
The benefits of mobile working are numerous. For example, mobile working enables staff to make more effective use of their ‘deadtime’ – be it waiting at an airport for a flight, travelling to or from work or on work business, or just simply waiting for a meeting to start.
By being able to connect to the internet, email and office systems, staff can check email, continue to work on documents etc.
Enabling staff to make effective use of this deadtime during the day ensures that companies can reduce the number of hours their staff have to work tied to a particular office or work location.
Enabling staff to make use of this deadtime can also enable companies to be more efficient. Access to information on the move can prove invaluable for companies, by giving them the opportunity to respond to new business, to check the latest information before an important business deal or deal with existing customer enquiries, and do so more rapidly than organisations without these solutions. A rapid response to enquiries from potential or existing customers suggests an organisation is ‘on the ball’ and able to deal with all eventualities.
From our interaction with customers, especially small businesses, we’ve seen that one obstacle that many companies face is that they often do not know where to start when it comes to implementing a flexible working practice. There are simply so many devices, services and tariffs that it is easy to get confused about the options.
We believe that the solution, as with most aspects of business, is to create a plan. This plan should evolve and grow with the business and help ensure that it really sees the promised benefits in terms of productivity and efficiency. Among the aspects that should be covered are:
• The need to define project responsibility. Who will be driving the mobile implementation forward and assuming control of the project? Who will be responsible for liaising with relevant units and departments including IT? The appointment of a key stakeholder, person or group is critical to the success of the project. Without a driving force, the plan will fail.
• Assess current working practices. The plan needs to formally consider who will actually benefit from the use of the mobile devices and how mobile working will actually help people do their jobs. There needs to be consideration as to which information needs to be accessed remotely. Is it just data or voice, or is it a combination of the two services? Do users need access to the company database, or just to personal and professional contacts, calendar information and/or email?
• A review of the current mobile activity and an assessment of the types and costs of mobile devices available.
• Training the people who will actually be using the devices. User support, as well as a clear policy on mobile working, are critical.
• Finally, there should be agreed criteria by which the success or otherwise of the strategy is assessed. What are they?
Planning for and adopting mobile working may seem like significant extra work for businesses to undertake. But developing a carefully thought-out plan will pay dividends in the future.
While mobile working is not the entire solution to the issues posed by the EU Working Time Directive legislation, it is one step in the right direction, and can help bridge the gap that currently splits the EU Member States.