Remote working isn’t a trend that’s likely to fade any time soon, with over 4.2 million people working purely from home in the UK. Many factors have contributed to this, including the Employment Act 2002, which states that any employee with children under the age of six should have the right to request flexible working hours and employers are obliged to give such requests serious consideration. In addition to this, increased mobility, technological advances that make remote working easier, and demographic shifts are also driving the demand for employees to work flexibly.
Whilst there are obvious advantages for employees, business benefits are evident too, such as increased levels of staff retention and reduced office space, leading to lower overheads. Not only can technologies such as video conferencing, Virtual Private Networks and instant messaging make home workers more productive, the benefits also apply to those who travel frequently as part of their role.
Planning for the future
Recent research from Intercity Technology has shown that on average, workers currently spend almost a third of their time working remotely. With this trend set to rise steadily over the next few years, this could present a potential strain on technology resources if not planned for appropriately.
The research has also shown that half of IT managers are concerned with helping users to work remotely, in order to support their productivity and the same number are intending to increase remote access to the company network.
Furthermore, 43% of IT teams have indicated that flexibility is an important factor when deciding on technology strategy, demonstrating some awareness of the importance of working from any given location for the modern workforce, but again, not a substantial number to show that it is being taken seriously enough within businesses.
What do users really want?
With these user requirements comes cost, security and complexity challenges for IT teams to tackle to ensure that working remotely or from home can be done in a secure and productive manner. Only 8% of IT managers believe that productivity is not reliant on secure remote working. However, it’s important to ensure that remote or home working is effective and actually leads to better levels of productivity.
In theory, remote working has immense potential to improve employee productivity, which leads to better business efficiency. However, increased productivity due to remote working will vary significantly between individual businesses. It should therefore be measured carefully to ensure the full benefits of remote working are being achieved for both the employee and the company.
Measurement could come in the form of gaining testimonials in terms of productivity and time saved, or measuring the happiness of employees and if, as a result of remote working, they are achieving a better work/life balance. As well as the return on investment any new technology that has been implemented to support remote working is gaining.
40% of IT managers think that less than 10-25% of their workforce can work productively from home. This indicates that despite an increase in the remote working, there is still a need to find ways of increasing the productivity that can result when working from home or remotely.
Nevertheless, as a trend that’s here to stay, remote working is an aspect of IT strategy where users and IT teams should be collaborating effectively, to ensure the advantages of remote working are being fully realised for employees and businesses alike.
By Richard Burke, Group Managing Director, Intercity Technology