24/09/10

By Andrew McGrath, Executive Director, Virgin Media Business

In the last few years, demand for remote working has soared. Snow, flooding, ash clouds and tube strikes have all underlined how remote working policies can help to keep businesses trading, even when events outside your control threaten productivity. All these factors combined outweigh initial concerns that businesses had about staff sat at home reviewing Daybreak on ITV, feet up and cuppa in hand.

Instead it’s become clear that remote working not only creates advantages for employees, but benefits the business too. Many employers have now become remote working advocates, having realised that is can help to significantly improve productivity whilst helping workers to achieve a greater work/life balance. However, not all businesses are getting the most out of it. There are a few simple ways that firms can improve remote working. My top five suggestions are below:

1. Make policies simple

One of the biggest hurdles that businesses face when looking to introduce remote working is a general lack of understanding. Some employees may be unsure of how regularly they can work from home, if they need to ask their manager for permission, or of what's expected from them when they're working remotely. Businesses must have policies that clearly explain this.

2. Get employees up to speed

Obviously people can’t work from home effectively without a fast Internet connection and a laptop. It might be worth thinking about revising your employee benefits package to include a contribution for home broadband. Although the taxman will ask you to allocate this as a taxable benefit, you shouldn't let this put you off. It offers employees increased flexibility and the chance to get a home broadband package that rivals the speeds on offer in the office.

3. Make security your top priority

If you're going to allow your teams to access information remotely, you must ensure that they can do this securely. Most businesses use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to protect the data that passes between company servers and remote workers’ computers. It's not a problem if your organisation has particularly stringent security procedures; two-factor authentication can be applied to reinforce your company's digital defences.

4. Ensure that workers don't feel remote

To ensure that your remote working policy doesn’t negatively impact the working environment, it’s important to ensure that people don’t feel disconnected from their colleagues in the office. This is a common grumble, but one that can be easily addressed through something as simple as encouraging your workforce to pickup the phone more often, or stay in touch using a secure, corporate Instant Messaging service.

5. Use one contact number

In order to minimise confusion for colleagues, associates and customers it's a good idea to unify your communications by routing calls to a single contact number. This means that staff can be reached regardless of whether they're in the office, working from home, or on their way to a meeting. This can be aided with presence management, which allows workers to display whether they're available or not, making it easier for staff to stay in touch.