Flexible work arrangements: how the cloud can help

By: IT Donut contributor

Date: 9 February 2015

Flexible work arrangements – dress code?{{}}If you get your flexible work arrangements right, employees who work from home can be just as productive as those in the office — if not more so.

People who work the regular nine-to-five can find this hard to believe. But as the rise of cloud computing – also sometimes called ‘cloudware’ – has continued, the traditional office setup is starting to look old-fashioned.

Workers can now access all their company resources from almost anywhere in the world, making it easier than ever to agree flexible working arrangements.

Are you scared to shake up your business without being sure changes will benefit your company rather than hinder it? If so, read on to learn how cloud services can help your flexible working arrangements and enable staff to achieve their full potential.

Flexible work arrangements – employee rights

In the UK, workers have the right to request flexible working – including the chance to work from home – if they have been with the same employer for at least 26 weeks.

If the company refuses to make flexible working arrangements without giving sufficient reason, the employee can take the business to a tribunal.

This is a scary thought for any employer, especially those running smaller businesses. But what if it’s just not feasible to let a critical member of staff work away from the office?

Well, employers are encouraged to find a compromise that suits both parties. But you can reject the application for a good business reason.

For example, if you can prove proven that the absence of a particular member of staff will disrupt operations and have a detrimental effect on the business, you can refuse the request.

Retaining talent with flexible working

It’s clear that many desirable employees would prefer to work flexibly, rather that being in an office.

Family commitments, expensive commutes and more contribute to an increased desire to work from home.

As the person in charge, it’s important you don’t allow great candidates to slip through your fingers because of concerns about meeting demands for flexible work arrangements.

Flexible work arrangements via the cloud

Cloudware can help employers make flexible working arrangements without compromising on staff productivity and efficiency.

Depending on which product(s) you use, your workers can be just a click away from everything they need to work from anywhere, including the comfort of their own home.

Cloudware enables employees to access data from several different devices, so workers are no longer limited to their office desktops. They can also stay connected via email or communications tools and access all their business applications, wherever they are.

Are people as productive when working flexibly?

Flexible workers are not necessarily lazier or less productive than their office-bound colleagues.

The evolving sophistication of mobile devices allows us to work from anywhere, but cloudware ensures staff can access what they need to get the job done.

In fact, some studies have shown that an employee’s output can be higher when they have a flexible working arrangement they’re happy with.

Flexible work arrangements: a case study

A study by Harvard Business Review looks at Chinese travel company Ctrip, which gave its staff the opportunity to work from home for nine months.

This resulted in considerable benefits for the business and its employees.

Ctrip saved $1,900(US) per employee on furniture and office space during this time. That’s a significant saving for businesses working to a tight budget.

What’s more, staff completed 13.5% more calls than normal — that’s getting on for an extra working day, every week. They also enjoy far higher job satisfaction.

Similar studies into flexible working arrangements have produced similar results.

Dell’s Global Evolving Workforce study (PDF link) found that, thanks to the increased use of mobile devices, 52% of workers believe they are as productive or more productive when working at home.

Crucially, workers are less stressed and can sleep longer and better when they don’t have to worry about getting up for a lengthy commute.

These results are backed by a flexible working trial at mobile phone giant O2. This followed 3,000 employees as they spent a month working from home.

During this time, staff collectively worked 1,000 extra hours and also spent 1,000 extra hours sleeping or relaxing. They also saved large amounts of money by not travelling.

Flexible working arrangements are growing

In any case, there are signs to suggest the traditional office arrangement is becoming extinct.

Many employees tend to communicate with colleagues and clients via email or instant messaging instead of talking, even when they’re located in the same building.

These communication platforms are easily accessible from home thanks to cloud services, so workers don’t have to miss out just because they’re not physically present.

Instead, they can work from home just as productively, saving money for themselves and the business — and enjoying a better work/life balance.

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