Free-range humans: The CxO guide to making remote and flexible working work

Flexible and remote working in the UK is a growing concept that is having a huge impact on the economy. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) revealed that a ‘work from anywhere’ culture could add an extra £11.5bn per year to the UK.

More than two-thirds of those currently unemployed or unable to work in an office would be happy to start working if given the opportunity to work flexibly. As a result, this could boost the economy by up to £78.5bn or 4.7% of the total UK GDP.

Since 2014, every employee in the UK has the legal right to request flexible working, provided they have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks. According to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (DBEIS), ‘family-friendly policies and economic growth can go hand-in-hand. Flexible working really can help employers boost productivity and profits.’

There’s huge potential for the economy and for businesses that implement a flexible working approach. But how do you make flexible working work for your organisation?


The difference between flexible and remote working

Escaping the 9-to-5, a culture of closed doors, hours of meetings and stifling office hierarchies, is a dream many people crave. An estimated 14.1million workers want more flexibility in their work, according to The Guardian. But what do we mean when we say ‘flexible working’?


What is flexible working and what are the benefits?

Flexible working simply means any schedule that is outside of a traditional working pattern. It’s an approach to working that suits both the businesses needs as well as the employee. Think of it as an umbrella term for all the different types of work options now available to us, such as:

  • Compressed hours, where you fit a week’s worth of hours into fewer, longer days.
  • Flexitime, where you work a set amount of ‘core hours’ and are flexible with the hours you work before and after these set hours.
  • Annualised hours, where your number of hours for the year are set but when you choose to work is up to you.


Is flexible working the same as remote working?

Put simply, no. Remote working is often an enabler of flexible working. It removes the commute to an office, which tends to eat up a big portion of any worker’s day. For some, remote working can be a couple of days a week, but for others it can be full time. In fact, some remote workers don’t even ‘meet’ their employers. Instead, they connect digitally from anywhere around the world.

Flexible working can include everything from remote working to flexible hours and alternating work schedules. Ultimately, it’s about moving away from the outdated 9-5 routine to give your employees more freedom to work when and where they are at their best.


Making flexible working work for your organisation

While there are practicalities to address when adopting flexible working, the key challenge is culture. For your employees, this level of freedom brings with it great responsibility. You need to trust that they won’t abuse the privilege or get lax on security. Just because they can work from home every now and then doesn’t mean they don’t need to follow company procedures.

To ensure that your employees embrace flexible working in a business-like manner, involve them in the decision-making process. Get their feedback and suggestions because they’re the ones on the front line – no one else will understand the day-to-day running quite like they do.

At Cloud Direct we run stakeholder workshops across your organisation to ensure that all employees are on board with the new way of working and that everyone’s needs, and concerns are addressed. Doing this at the beginning of the process generally avoids most of the usual teething problems further down the line.


Tools and storage to enable flexibility

Different business solutions have different strengths and weaknesses, and some will be more appropriate for certain business circumstances than others. You need to investigate the capabilities of any solution in detail to make sure it best matches the needs of your organisation.


Utilising Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

Working remotely means that employees need access to the same systems, tools and applications used on a day-to-day basis in your business. Fortunately, staying connected while working remotely is not only possible, it’s easy to do and gives employees a much-needed work-life balance.

This is where VDI can really support your flexible working needs. The Citrix VDI programme combines Citrix and Microsoft Azure to bring cloud users access to their desktops remotely from anywhere, on any device. This means employees will have access to the same software subscriptions and applications that they’re used to and it will look exactly the same as their normal desktop.


What tools do you need to maximise flexible collaboration?

It really comes down to listening to employees’ needs and ensuring that all tools are simple to use and easy to manage. There are a huge range of tools available but some of the key resources are:

  • Office 365 – Your ‘office in the cloud’, providing a suite of professional tools enabling your team to get the work done, anywhere, anytime. Having access to the same tools as an in-house team means seamless work flow between employees and no down-time for new tool adoption and training.
  • Microsoft 365 – Wherever your employees are based, they can stay connected with the rest of the organisation and with your external contacts. It also means that whenever they’re working, they can stay updated with all the business movements so you don’t have to spend additional time and resources keeping them in the loop.
  • Dynamics 365 – Give your entire organisation a clearer view of how customers are interacting with your business so you can react with powerful analytics tools. All of this is accessible from any device, anywhere, so your remote employees don’t miss a thing.
  • Hosted Telephony – Moving your communication system to the cloud means a professional and well-connected team. It also means you don’t compromise on the quality of your calls internally or externally. After all, keeping your employees connected is the lynch pin of making remote and flexible working work.


Cloud, hybrid or on premise?

It’s not a new conversation, but it is a hotly discussed one: the cloud and how you can utilise the many opportunities it provides a flexible business. 88% of organisations in the UK have already begun moving at least part of their infrastructure to the cloud. It’s quite common to use email, apps and some data storage in the cloud, but more sensitive data might still be kept on premise.

Price, flexibility and ease of management are still the three main considerations when comparing cloud-based solutions. There are several considerations when choosing how much of your business you will be moving to the cloud so don’t hesitate to discuss your business needs with one of Cloud Direct’s technical support staff.


Doing BYOD right

You’ve probably already got a Bring Your Own Device policy, so we won’t bore you explaining why it’s ideal. (Just in case you haven’t, see our eleven best practice tips for creating a BYOD policy). But are you doing BYOD right? Are you sure you haven’t just implemented a policy and then let your employees run wild?

When it comes to BYOD, you need to be rigorous. You need technology in place to ensure your business stays compliant. You need Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS). With Microsoft’s EMS, you can:

  • Control identity and access so only approved users can access data.
  • Manage all mobile devices from one central hub.
  • Protect your sensitive data from vulnerabilities.
  • Virtualise your desktops to deliver the same experience across mobile devices.
  • Remote wipe devices in case of loss or theft.

With the right technology and process in place, you can ensure that your company data stays within the company network. That means your employees really can work from anywhere on any device and you can rest easy knowing your data is safe.


What’s next for your business?

The decision to implement a flexible working approach in your organisation isn’t a fast or easy one to make. There’s a lot to consider with regards to culture, systems, processes and tools. Taking the time to discuss this internally can help you reach the right conclusion.

But remember that you don’t need to make this decision alone. As with any big project, it’s about change management, and we can help you get it right. By working with our consultants, we’ll ensure your people, processes and technology are aligned for success.

For support and guidance on this transition, book a call with one of our experts to discuss your company’s needs and what it would take for you to adopt a flexible working approach.