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Using Technology to Support More Flexible Working

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 13 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Flexible Working Technology Flexible

Flexible working often means that your employees will request that they work from their homes, or remotely from a variety of locations. Flexible working has been made possible by the advances in communications technology that has taken place over the last few years. Today, your staff can work just as easily from you office, their homes, or even the local coffee shop.

Remote Working

Flexible working often means employees work away from their usual office. Sales representatives have been working offsite for decades, but with fast broadband connections to the Internet now available to most of the country, and powerful desktop and notebook computers, all of the technology that you need to manage flexible working is now available off-the-shelf.

It is still important to carefully plan an employees move to flexible working as you will need to assess the technology they will need, its set-up costs and any on-going costs that it may attract such as the rental of the broadband connection to the Internet. There may also be insurance and tax implications whether you buy outright or lease the equipment your flexible worker will be using, so consult your financial advisers.

Flexible Working Technology

The kind of work that your employee will be doing when they start flexible working will determine what kind of technology they will need. The shopping list below gives an overview of what a typical flexible worker might need your business to provide them with:

These days many smaller businesses are using notebook computers instead of their desktop cousins. If you don’t need to regularly upgrade your computers, notebook PCs can be a great option. They are now just as powerful as desktop PCs, but they are much smaller and are of course portable.

Mobile Phone/PDA
If your employee will be working from home and also remotely from a number of locations, it is important that as part of their flexible working arrangement you and their colleagues can reach then quickly and easily. Today’s smartphones are falling in price. The Blackberry is the ideal solution, but Apple’s iPhone is quickly becoming a business favourite.

Internet Connection
Flexible working has been made possible largely because of the almost ubiquitous availability of broadband connections to the Internet. Your employee requesting flexible working may already have a broadband connection to their home. If not, your business will have to pay the cost of installing this.

The most useful peripheral you can equip your flexible worker with is a printer. However, it makes more commercial sense to use an MFD or Multifunctional Device. You can buy a printer that is also a fax machine, flatbed scanner and a photocopier. The space saving that these devices can offer is considerable.

Any applications that your employee will need to do their work will have to be installed onto their computer. This includes any specific applications that your business uses such as customer service software. It’s also important to load onto the computers your flexible workers will use security software such as firewalls and anti-virus software. Look closely at the licenses your business has for the software it uses as these may not extend to the homes of anyone starting flexible working from their home.

Working on the Webtop

The traditional way of using computer software is to install this onto a PC and run this from the computer’s desktop. With broadband connections to the Internet now available, many of the standard office applications like word processors, email clients and spreadsheets are now available as online applications. These programs are in their infancy, but they would offer a real alternative to installed software if your business can’t extend its software license to cover flexible working in employee’s homes.

Health and Safety

The technology that your business installs into any employees home when they request more flexible working has to be assessed for its health and safety risks. Even though someone is working from home, or remotely from another location, they are still considered your employees for health and safety matters, which means you have a duty of care to them. Working with computers brings a level of risk that you must assess and build into your health and safety policy.

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