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How technology has facilitated flexible working

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technology and flexible workingThere are many situations where flexible working can make the work/life balance easier to manage. As a mum of two young children, balancing childcare and a career is undoubtedly a struggle. Fortunately, we live in a society that understands the benefits of flexible working and diversity. Just as importantly, my employers are sympathetic to the juggling act, having had children themselves.

The momentum behind flexible working has grown significantly over the last 10 years. In this blog, I explore the reasons behind this growth and discuss how modern technology has facilitated remote working.

The rise of Flexible Working

Flexible working has come a long way in the last 10 years. Much of this has been driven by societal changes, such as cutting commuting time and emissions, improving work/life balance, two working parent households and childcare commitments.

From a legislative perspective, in 2014 all employees were given the ‘right to request’ flexible working. A YouGov Omnibus survey shows that 54% of UK office workers are currently able to work remotely. Moreover, a recent survey by IWG showed that 73% of workers in the UK considered flexible working to be the new normal.

Employers have also become increasingly aware of the business benefits of flexible working. Specifically, this means allowing employees to have a say over where they work, when they work and how much time they spend working.  Benefits include:

  • Reduced office costs
  • Increased loyalty and staff retention
  • Higher staff morale
  • Wider talent pool for recruitment
  • More flexibility
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Reduced stress of commuting

One of the biggest facilitators of flexible working has been technology. The rise of mobile and smart devices, alongside cloud computing, has increased connectivity and enabled businesses to support flexible working practices.

Technology that underpins flexible working

With the internet, cloud communications and smart devices, it’s never been easier to connect and work from anywhere. Despite this, 42% of business people in the UK cite technology requirements as one of the biggest barriers for companies wanting to switch to flexible working.

To this end, I’ve highlighted some key technologies that facilitate flexible working:

  • Office 365 – Cloud hosted email and Office apps

Microsoft Office 365 provides all the tools you need to work flexibly and remotely. It gives you access to your email, shared calendars, contacts and the full suite of Office applications across a range of devices. Providing you have internet connectivity, you can work from anywhere, anytime, just as if you were in the office.

  • Document sharing and collaboration

The ability to access, share and collaborate on key documents and files is integral to business productivity. Without it, you risk having multiple versions of the same document and creating confusion.

Software such a OneDrive provides online document/file storage to store and access files. Moreover, a SharePoint team site facilitates collaboration by allowing multiple individuals and teams to work on documents at the same time. Any changes or comments are instantly visible to other users in real time. Many of these products are included within Office 365 Business packages.

There are however lots of web-based file sharing solutions. Other popular ones include Google DriveDropbox and Box.

  • Online meetings and Video Conferencing

Meetings are an important part of business. Video conferencing enables remote workers to connect and collaborate with in-office employees in real time. This can speed up decision making, boost productivity and save on travel costs.

Software like Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business allows you to host HD video conferences and provides instant messaging as if everyone was in the office.

  • VoIP Telephony

When telephone systems are hosted from the cloud, all employees need is an Internet connection. They can then access calls as if they were working in an office. Customers can reach company employees via the same work phone number, wherever they are. Moreover, all internal voice calls between employees are free.

Final Thoughts

With major benefits for both employers and employees, it is easy to see why flexible working has risen over the years.  Technology has undoubtedly played its part. However, technology alone cannot ensure successful flexible working and having a supportive environment is equally important. Key to this is strong communication to make everyone feel included and empowered.

It is also worth noting that whilst advances in technology have promoted flexibility by enabling people to work anywhere, at any time, it has also made it more difficult for employees to switch off and disconnect from work. This has the potential to threaten rather than enhance work-life balance. Introducing guidelines and setting clear boundaries is good practice to ensure employees understand what is and isn’t expected of them.

As my eldest son is due to start primary school in September, this will bring a new set of challenges. It will no doubt be an emotional time but fortunately, with flexible working, it will mean one less thing to worry about!

 


AUTHOR: Violeta Carrillo, Marketing Manager

Violeta is responsible for all things marketing, including branding, communication and content creation. She looks after PCR’s outbound and inbound marketing activity, including the website.


 

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