London Businesses Going Remote for the Olympics
Posted in Work at Home
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By Alan Cairns
The cabinet has urged London’s top financial firms to implement remote and flexible working practices in time for the summer Olympics in the capital, to ease travel congestion during the Games. It’s easier for some businesses to get their head round than others, as managers try to find ways of introducing flexible and remote working while maintaining productivity and efficiency.
Some businesses already offer staff flexible and remote working opportunities, and with the development of iPhones, tablets and other mobile devices more and more office work can be done just as effectively from home.
The first thing businesses should be concerned about is their customers. How do customers communicate with the company? Ensuring that these inquiries are not disrupted is key, and ensuring that customers receive the same level of service involves a number of considerations.
It’s relatively easy to allow staff access to their emails, but they could also need access to shared data. Google Docs is a good way of managing documents across multiple locations, and gives the ability for editors to add notes to documents so viewers can see an update history. To access Google docs employees simply need an internet connection and to be granted access to the documents by the administrator.
Phones can be forwarded, but so should faxes and paper letters. Arrangements should be made for these (albeit infrequently used) communications to be answered in a timely way. It’s important that employees have a strong internet connection and the technology to do the job at home.
Next comes internal communication. With everybody sat at their desk at home in their pajamas, how do they get in touch with one another? The obvious answer is to pick up the phone, but this raises a number of issues. Should home phone numbers be used? Should mobile devices be called? Or should all communications be directed through the central switchboard? It’s a question that needs to be answered by managers.
Instant messaging software, Skype and conferencing software can all be used to connect remote individuals, and many of these services are free and easy-to-use. Instant messaging is perfect for less-urgent communication, and can replace the office chit-chat that many workers have become accustomed to.
Of course the most important thing for managers is to monitor their workforce, tracking effectiveness, productivity and efficiency. If workers can’t be as productive at home, they’re unlikely to be granted permission to work remotely. Mobile workforce management can be a complicated business, but ensuring that workers can work just as hard at home as at work is important for justifying the change. Whether flexible and remote working practices will remain after the Olympic Games is over remains to be seen.
There are currently around 3.7 million homeworkers in the UK, and its growing. Business secretary Vince Cable has indicated that he would like to change the law to give every employee the right to request flexible working patterns. Technology is clearly playing its part here, making available the tools which will allow homeworking to flourish.