Ideas for organisations to adapt and address the positive and negative challenges of the mobile workforce.

Listening to BBC Radio 4 Today (08 Feb 2018), an interesting discussion between Economics Editor Kamal Ahmed and Today presenter Justin Webb took place regarding the changing working environment. The feature included some key statements that got the Nowcomm team thinking about how vital the management of people and business processes are alongside the introduction of potential technology enablers.

In the Today broadcast, Kamal commented that the whole world of work is “on the cusp of a real revolution” and offered the view that the world of business “is now moving over this cusp, where ever that takes us or whatever that means”. Justin also covered how the working models of the 20th century; with traditional set hours and fixed location practices has now moved into the 21st century model of people willing (and indeed demanding) to be able to work with a much greater level of flexibility, particularly in terms of locations and working hours.

So how do organisations accommodate the demands above? How do we take advantage of these new models in the workforce? Furthermore, businesses are experiencing higher expectations from their customers, who increasingly demand greater flexibility and adaptability of the services and products they wish to consume.

Long-commuting has a significant impact on employee’s well-being and productivity.

Research from the Office of National Statistics shows that feelings of happiness and life satisfaction decrease, and feelings of anxiety increase with every increasing minute of travel to work. Few of us are strangers to the struggles of commuting, but as managers and mentors, it’s a difficult starting point if our team members are already feeling stressed, fatigued and even irate by the time we arrive at our workplace, especially when research shows that great business and innovation happens when employees are happy and well.

According to the BBC in 2016, the average daily commute for UK workers had risen to 2-hours, due to many people living further away from their workplace and the continued gridlock and overstretched travel network available to the public. According to a study by Mercer commuting was shown to have a significant impact on mental well-being; those with longer commutes were 33% more likely to suffer from depression, 37% more likely to have financial concerns and 12% more likely to report multiple dimensions of work-related stress.

Flexible working boosts organisational productivity

So, what can be done about addressing this issue from impacting the productivity and creativity that organisations desperately need (Low skills and poor infrastructure blamed for UK productivity gap – 4 September 2017)?  We can’t exactly stop the daily commute from happening, but there are ways to work around it. A study commissioned by VitalityHealth, University of Cambridge, RAND Europe and Mercer found that flexible working had a beneficial impact on workers compared to those with no flexible working arrangement, and gained 5 additional productive days a year by working this way. Through flexible working, employees can work smarter, fit their workload around existing commitments and be more productive. Whether it’s embraced or not, we must accept that the changing working environment means the world is slowly but surely transitioning to a more flexible working model.

So how can we support our employees through a flexible working initiative and ensure the organisation can cater for this through internal processes, systems and technology? Typically, when our customers approach us they tell us they want their users to be able to securely connect to the corporate network remotely, across any device and at any time or location. Typically, we deliver a range of benefits under an ‘agile working’, ‘teleworking’ or ‘digital transformation’ initiative. Delivering such capabilities to the organisation and the workforce involves joining up wireless, mobility, security, network and system policy access to provide employees with the tools, secure file access and platforms to communicate and collaborate optimally from any location. In a nutshell, the underlying technology being integrated and interlocked with the business process that creates the environment for flexible and agile working to be embraced and make the organisation more productive not simply the same.

Commuting to work during severe weather conditions can cause a loss of productivity and a cost to businesses and your employees.

Adverse winter weather isn’t particularly surprising. Yet winter snow, ice and storms all seem to result in lost productivity due to travel delays on UK roads and railways each year and produce major knock-on effects to the cost and efficiency of doing business. Further, extreme environmental issues may now occur more frequently than perhaps was experienced half a century ago given wider climate change issues.  An example being the increase and frequency in unexpected flash flooding that has affected many different cities and regions of the UK over recent years.

Whilst the mantra “expect the unexpected” holds true in all areas of business and personal life, flexible working models also deliver risk management and mitigation that can enhance and protect against business-affecting issues, like those mentioned above. Organisations that are built to offer workforce flexibility can naturally operate with the agility to seamlessly work around unforeseen problems as and when they occur.  It is these flexible organisations that can always maintain the highest levels of productivity and performance. Such organisations do not simply achieve “some level” of business continuity, rather they continually operate business at their usual high standard and with all the advantages this provides.  That’s another business benefit of delivering flexible working features and solutions in addition to having more creative, engaged and innovative employees delivering excellent services to the organisation’s customer base.

How has staff illness been for your organisation this year?

According to the ONS, 27 million working days are lost each year due to minor illnesses such as common coughs and colds. We’ve all been in the position where we’re too ill to travel to the office and would rather avoid people to not spread further germs, but we are well enough to continue working during the day (indeed we’d welcome the distraction from the coughing and spluttering). Again, the ability to provide a flexible working environment in terms of location and hours ensures organisations continue to maximise available team resources and maintain high levels of productivity. Staff can feel less stressed by keeping on top of their work list, and often better by having a distraction or motivator to help beat the ailment, and the wider office remains a safer place with fewer germs spreading across the company location. In the UK, the end of 2017 and the first months of 2018 have seen an unusually high incident rate of heavy colds and influenza affect the population. How affected has your staff and your organisation been during this time, and how easy, compelling and effectively was it for team workers to connect and work in the business, whilst being located outside of the business?

Flexible working and cloud services require rethinking the approach to data security.

Devising and implementing a flexible working solution that provides your employees with the ability to connect to the corporate network securely, and deliver the same level of work and services from a remote location as would be expected from the corporate office. For those with constant contact with customers, suppliers and business stakeholders, a stable and clear video and voice capability is paramount to enhance and improve the effectiveness of many daily activities. Does your existing network cater to maintain video and voice quality for remote workers? Are your employees able to benefit from the same high-performance network with full IP telephony, wireless and data services that they would while in office? Have you taken precautions to ensure workers can safely connect to both the home and corporate network without the risk of malware being carried over to your corporate network posing serious ramifications to your organisation?

As some of your employees may be regularly moving between offices and locations it is vital that you can enforce corporate-level security and web access policies wherever they are. We would recommend implementing a secure mobility solution that would allow workers to roam while ensuring security and data compliance. When thinking of secure mobility, how is the organisation delivering that across the cloud platforms that we all consume? Are we simply leaving it to the cloud providers themselves and hoping they have it covered?  

Or are we implementing our own security solutions into and across the cloud and if not – how are we ensuring consistent organisation policy now that users can avoid the traditional need of connecting to our data via legacy virtual private network (VPN) links of the past two decades?  With applications increasingly running their own encryption within the application service itself, how do traditional network security platforms identify and prevent malicious activity when such activity is both hidden and protected by an application’s own embedded encryption policy? Furthermore, what is alerting our organisation when an employee logs on to their cloud service from their mobile device when at home, only for the same employee user credentials to connect into the corporate an hour later, but this time from an IP address associated with a foreign country, many hours away?

Flexible and Agile Working is new ‘normal’ in the digital world.

Whether those of us leading organisations like it or not, flexible and agile working services are expected as a standard by our customers, employees and business partners. Traditional working styles are the ‘other’ and flexible working is considered the new ‘normal’. Subsequently, are we doing enough to make this transition easier? Are we considering the fundamental three elements: people, process and technology, so that we deliver initiatives that create multiple wins and organisational benefits, rather than treating it as a policy of tick-box exercises?

If this post about flexible, agile and remote working and the opportunities for achieving the many benefits through a digital transformation project interested you please comment on our post. If you’d like to discuss in greater depth and understand the various solutions and improvements we’ve helped many organisations achieve call our team on 01332 821108 or email [email protected].


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