The Rise of the Flexible Workplace

flexible-workforce

The 21st century has seen many advances in the ways which people work, and the modern workplace is very different to how it was even a few years ago. One of the most important developments has been the empowerment of workers to work remotely, remaining efficient and effective whilst away from their desks.

This has been a big boost to companies which enable flexible working, but creating a flexible workplace takes care and planning to implement. There are many potential benefits to be gained, but it takes a good understanding of the driving forces behind this technology to create a secure yet adaptable working environment.

What is a flexible workplace?
A flexible workplace is one which grants employees a degree of freedom in how and where they work. This means that employees can choose the type of work which best suits them, creating a happier and more productive workforce. Businesses can also integrate several different communications channels into a single package, which allows customers to select the option which best suits them; providing for customer’s needs instead of forcing choices upon them is key to the future of communications, according to specialists in the field.

Flexible communications systems are especially useful for SMEs where one worker may have several different responsibilities. By allowing them to adapt to different roles as the situation demands, flexible working practices let them stay productive whilst responding to the demands of their different roles.

What enables a flexible workplace?
Being away from their desk has historically meant that a worker lacks access to the full suite of communications tools and information that they need to do their job, compromising their productivity. This has been a disincentive for businesses to invest in mobile solutions in the past, but advances in technology have contributed to an increase in the effectiveness of flexible working.

Hosted telephony has become extremely popular – by configuring a business’s communications systems digitally, workers can keep a single phone number across multiple locations, allowing clients and colleagues alike to contact them easily no matter where they’re working.

In addition to this, the fact that smart devices have become almost ubiquitous has driven employers to enable their workers to use them for business, taking advantage of the connectivity which this can provide without much investment. This style of work has become known as “bring your own device” or BYOD, as employees supply whatever personal device they feel best suits their working habits.

What are the benefits of a flexible workplace?
One of the biggest attractions of flexible working for many businesses is the ability to create a comprehensive communications system which responds to changing circumstances. Providing employees with the option to work from their own devices lets them become mobile, and when this is backed up by flexible business communications systems which can supply the necessary infrastructure, this is a powerful tool for modern businesses.

What problems can there be in a flexible workplace?
Enabling workers to use their own devices limits the control which businesses have over how their data is used, and places a greater reliance on employees to keep data secure. Businesses are also unable to standardise devices, and cannot ensure that operating systems are up-to-date and secure – studies have shown that a wide array of operating systems are used in BYOD workplaces, and many of these are potentially open to exploitation (especially older, unsupported Android systems).

Flexible working for the future
This means that businesses have to carefully consider how their flexible workplace will be implemented; to what extent are they happy to let employees use their own devices? Will the added security of providing “work phones” compensate for the extra cost of purchasing and upgrading them? How will they educate workers on the importance of data security, and how will they ensure compliance?

A successful flexible workplace will have plans in place to ensure that these concerns are addressed before investing in any new technology. If these concerns aren’t addressed ahead of time, businesses can find themselves in trouble – that’s why many take steps to enlist a professional business communications specialist when considering a shift to a flexible workplace.

Though cloud technology and mobile workforces offer many benefits for businesses, it’s important to make sure that any change in your working practices is thoroughly planned ahead of time. Understand what is most important to your business, and work to ensure that your communications packaged suits your needs.

Gemma Maroney is part of the team at experts in business communications Solution IP. You can connect on LinkedIn and follow @SolutionIP on Twitter.