Many businesses tout the benefits of flexible working, but for the uninitiated it is necessary to establish the boundaries of this new approach before its positive aspects can truly come into focus.
Flexible working requires a particular technological infrastructure to be in place before it can be put into action. It is necessary for companies to invest in in-house systems which will allow for remote access so that employees can work from home. Alternatively, making use of the power of cloud computing can make it far simpler for staff to collaborate on projects regardless of their geographical location. Removing the ties to the office building is the cornerstone of initiating a successful flexible working environment.
Of course, with external access and the use of cloud platforms being mooted, it is also necessary to look at the ways in which security comes into play. Protecting sensitive data which is vital to your business will be something of a priority, so you will want to make sure that you are not leaping into flexible working without first plugging any security holes which may exist.
The core of any collaborative and flexible workplace will not necessarily be the hardware, but could instead be the software which facilitates collective communication and the sharing of ideas and information. In most cases, this is intrinsically linked to the hardware platforms which you have available in-house. However, with the rise of cloud computing it is far easier to run scalable, powerful software which can be accessed remotely by anyone with a network connection. As long as your cloud provider - or your in-house set-up if you take the private-cloud route - is secure then you should have no qualms about adopting modern software solutions which encourage flexible working.
It is important for businesses to appreciate that remote and flexible working of this kind requires an active stance from those in charge. This involves not only the introduction of the technology required to enable it, but also the policies and standards which will keep it in check and ensure that staff are aware of their responsibilities and limitations.
You need to think about the flexible working arrangements that will best suit your business and then choose the types of technology and services which will be appropriate. You should not attempt to squeeze your activities into a mould which is not fit for purpose.
For example, you might determine that there are some tasks which are better suited to flexible working than others and outline for what purposes particular systems and services can be used and which activities are to be avoided. In the best-case scenarios, you will be able to identify issues and then overcome them so that flexible working can become as productive and palatable as in-house operations, with no associated restrictions.
With the right tools for flexible working in place you should be able to find plenty of benefits at a management level, such as fewer instances of absence due to sickness and increased staff retention because you will be able to entice people to stay by offering them hours they can manage. For employees themselves, the improved levels of continuity and greater satisfaction which come from getting the job done on their own terms will be reward enough.
Flexible working will help to teach a business how to be adaptive and responsive to shifts in the market. This will not only help with efficiency and productivity but could also improve your competitive chances, helping to promote growth and giving you the edge over your closest rivals going into the future, with customer loyalty improving as well.