How can IT Teams and CIOs make flexible working reality? This blog was first published on IT ProPortal

Today’s employees expect full control over where they work and the devices they use. Enabling this choice can lead to greater productivity, increased employee satisfaction and significant cost savings. Indeed, four in five (81 per cent) CEOs are sold on the idea that mobile technologies are strategically important to their businesses, according to Forbes.

The question for most organisations, then, is how to make this way of working a reality. CIOs and IT teams are expected to support flexible working, yet the growing number of tools and devices favoured by employees makes this an increasingly complex task. In fact, our own research shows that 69 per cent of flexible workers use instant messaging, 63 per cent use shared documents, 49 per cent use cloud-based team collaboration tools, and 44 per cent use video conferencing.

Concerns over managing this sophisticated array of technologies – while keeping company data secure – means many companies are falling behind the curve when it comes to providing attractive, flexible working options. In fact, just three in ten (29 per cent) employees enjoy this privilege.

With nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of survey respondents saying they would turn down a job if the company did not provide flexible working options, organisations are at risk of losing top talent. The pressure on IT teams to get the right processes and infrastructure in place is going nowhere. So, how can they empower workers to fuel a smarter, more efficient business? 


Understand employee frustrations

If you’re not in the same building as the workforce you are serving, it’s not easy to stay close to the most pressing issues. Our survey identified that over a quarter (27 per cent) of flexible workers miss social interaction when working from home and 16 per cent feel disconnected from colleagues. Others face connectivity issues (17 per cent) and feel they are relying on technology too heavily (14 per cent). Enabling seamless communication between colleagues, whether that is through instant messaging or a ‘pick up the phone’ culture, will help to overcome any social concerns. And a regular IT feedback loop will make sure any issues which could impact on productivity are uncovered as quickly as possible. 


Maintain visibility of devices used remotely

Business leaders tend to be big advocates of BYOD. It enables employees to use technology they are familiar with and get the job done faster. With the practice saving organisations $350 per year, per employee, it’s easy to see why they’re happy for people to work on any device.

Our research showed that many employees are exercising this right. Four in ten (42 per cent) use their own mobile device and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) use their own laptop when working flexibly. However, one of the biggest challenges we hear from IT managers is that they’re not always familiar with the phones or laptops people are using. Not only does this introduce new security challenges, but it means they cannot always provide quick help when something goes wrong. This will always be a hurdle in the quest for happier and more productive employees, and IT teams must reassess their processes to provide adequate support.


Keep up with compliance

Recording communications for regulatory and quality control purposes is a well-established requirement for today’s businesses. With a flexible workforce, companies need to make sure employees are able to stay compliant remotely and on their preferred device. Technology is available to record across a number of platforms – without expensive software – to ensure all compliance obligations are met.


Educate employees

Remote working is built on trust. Not just that employees will get the job done, but that they will protect the business from internal and external threats. One of the key priorities should be to build knowledge around mobile and cyber-awareness. This includes communicating the implications of failure around data and device loss. If employees understand the consequences, they will understand why certain security restrictions are in place. Currently just 43 per cent of employees have received additional training or support on technologies to work more flexibly. IT inductions are a good opportunity to capture competence and put relevant training in place.


Encourage open communication

Strong communication with business leaders will help to meet priorities, and good communication with employees will help to build a happy, engaged workforce. However, IT training (or fixing!) can be a ‘hands-on’ task and difficult to manage remotely. Picking up the phone and turning to video-based conferencing can save a lot of time in upskilling staff. And remember – this may be the only time employees are speaking to someone that day, so it can also help to keep them from feeling isolated. Collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams can be effective in creating a sense of community and can drive great efficiencies.


Manage data security

IT policies are often rolled out prohibiting personal devices and consumer apps. Yet employees will want to use what they are comfortable with and choose their preferred method of communicating with clients, customers and colleagues. This is particularly true when they are working outside of the office environment.

Companies can overcome the challenge of shadow IT. There are solutions that make it possible for employees to use a device they are familiar with, while protecting their corporate assets and information in a fully compliant manner. All business calls, texts, instant messages and group chats can be via a secure application like Re:Call. And, should a phone be lost or stolen the app can be immediately, and remotely, disabled. This gives employers the added peace of mind that all business-related data can become completely unobtainable in the click of a button.


Take a leadership role

Keeping close to business leaders is just as important as keeping close to the wider workforce. Ongoing communication and support will lead to a happier and more productive remote workforce to achieve business success.

Enabling flexible working has become a board-level priority. The IT team may or may not want it, but they are the ones who will ultimately make it happen. It is therefore important someone has a seat at the table when important decisions are being made, so they can advise on what’s possible and give realistic timings.

Steve Haworth, CEO, Teleware