By Lea Pachta

Experts at independent IT consultancy specialist NCC Group plc have warned that a lack of education among businesses around remote working is contributing to the spiralling economic cost of the snowy weather conditions, which are expected to continue into next week.

Business groups have widely predicted that the cost of absenteeism as a result of the snow could cost the UK economy up to £2 billion, with The Federation of Small Businesses reporting that 10 per cent of the UK’s 30 million workforce was unable to get to work on Tuesday, at a cost of £600 million.

As a result, a number of unified communications vendors have lauded remote working as a simple solution to the problem, allowing staff to collaborate on shared documents and conduct meetings via web or video conferencing.

However, remote working experts at NCC Group have warned that businesses face a number of challenges before implementing remote working to bolster their business continuity strategies, and believe a lack of education is hampering the effective use of this technology.

Roger Rawlinson, managing director of Assurance Division at NCC Group, said: “The business case for remote working is undoubtedly strong. Remote access to data, video conferencing, IP telephony and collaboration software all offer viable options for staff to work from home and allow business operations to remain unaffected by adverse weather conditions.

“However, what many vendors are not publicising is the challenges businesses face in implementing remote working. In most cases, this requires a dramatic shift in business culture and working practices, which, across large, medium and small businesses alike can mean significant planning, and a period of education and training. Some companies with entrenched processes often find considerable resistance to this new technology.

“In many cases, existing technology will not support remote working, while many larger businesses do not currently keep tabs on unified communications tools already employed in different areas of the company. Integration and staff awareness are both essential in the process, and, if not conducted properly, the new technology can go to waste.

“Businesses should seek independent advice to ensure any solution employed fits well with their objectives, and is future-proofed to ensure that the technology can be updated so that it does not become obsolete.”

NCC Group has compiled its five top tips for businesses implementing remote working technology:

1. Cost-benefit analysis
Businesses must consider the tangible benefits that remote working will provide based against cost. While for many companies this technology could prove invaluable, businesses should not look to unified communications unless there is a clear business case.

2. Staff consultation
Remote working can represent a notable shift in working practices. As a result, workshops should be carried out to better understand the needs and concerns of management and staff to ensure that the new technology will be used effectively, minimising staff resistance. For larger businesses, these groups are more effective if carried out at departmental level.

3. Remote working security policy
While most companies have a security policy document in place, this should be revised with the introduction of remote working to ensure that data and information remain secure outside business premises. The encryption of portable devices, and secure internet connections and wireless networks should be considered.

4. Flexible working policy
Employers must clarify when it is appropriate for employees to work remotely by introducing a flexible working policy. This will help to avoid staff misuse of this technology, and allow the business to operate as efficiently as possible. In many cases, organisations do not know when their staff are working at home, which has implications for health and safety, and security practices.

5. Training
As with the introduction of any new technology, training is essential. A clear training programme should be designed to ensure employees at all levels can use this technology and are aware of their responsibilities when working remotely.

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