Flexible Working Reforms Could Swamp UK Firms

Today an estimated 4.5 million extra requests for flexible working could, theoretically, swamp UK firms. New legislation is coming into effect that represents one of the biggest ever changes to working practices, with the right to request flexible working extended to all parents with children under the age of 16.

Michael Calvert, UK general manager for Aastra comments: “The new reforms will no doubt present problems for many businesses. Until now just 12 per cent of the UK population has been equipped to work remotely, a figure which will now increase rapidly. However, most businesses are still unable to support flexible working practices, so workers will struggle to reap the full benefits.

“By developing working policies to enable more home working, companies who embrace work/life balance could potentially see improved morale, a higher commitment to the company, lower office costs and benefit from stronger retention of their staff.

“To ensure flexible working is executed effectively there needs to be a relationship built on trust to make remote or flexible working function effectively. It needs boardroom backing, with stringent policies in place to govern the security of data and deter abuse, plus of course it needs the right technology.

Today it’s very easy and cost-effective for businesses to put the technology in place to re-route calls and emails to home offices. Road warriors are traditionally equipped with mobile phone but with a mobile client, these phones can also offer similar features to a deskphone making it easier to work and collaborate whilst on the move. Home office workers can use IP deskphones or a softphone to make and receive calls from my laptop making their remote location completely transparent for colleagues and customer alike.”

Roger Hockaday, Director of Marketing EMEA at Aruba Networks – a global leader in secure mobility solutions – has made the following comments:

“This is a fantastic idea in theory – parents need the flexibility to balance both home and work demands. Unfortunately though, many companies are still intimidated by the cost and complexity of traditional remote networking solutions – anything beyond the standard VPN client is often perceived as expensive to deploy and difficult to manage. To avoid having to deny flexible working requests simply because of cost, organisations must urgently find a way to overcome these very real challenges.

“While public Wi-Fi hotspots and consumer-grade home networks may on the surface seem like the most obvious and economic option, they are by no means a legitimate method of connection when dealing with corporate data. In reality, they are often uncontrolled and unsecured – making remote workers a soft target for hackers. Employees can’t be expected to understand the myriad of data security threats that exist – so ahead of this legislation, organisations need ensure that networks are kept on a very tight leash and that enforceable policies can be easily extended beyond the office walls.

“Security aside, true flexibility can only be achieved if companies can seamlessly deliver enterprise, voice, video and data applications to all employees working away from the office. The ‘snow day’ a couple of months ago was a clear indicator of the importance of workplace flexibility, and hopefully this legislation will be a further push for companies to extend IT models to incorporate mobile workers. Only then will organisations be able to grant employee requests for flexibility when asked – rather than shying away because it’s too complex, or just too risky.”