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The importance of a mobile working environment

Still today, many people wonder what on earth is the point in going that extra mile to create external access to emails and other business systems, buy laptops instead of desktops or encourage employees to have smartphones. The truth is, companies are increasingly likely to gain back much more than they invest when providing a flexible and accessible working environment…

Imagine the scenario – you’re working in an office that most of your employees rely on transport, to get to and one winter morning people wake up to realise there is too much snow or ice on the roads, to get to work. What would your company do? Make people take the day as annual leave? Give them all the day off on the basis they cannot work? Either way, someone stands to be upset; either the employees at having a day’s holiday taken from them, or the stakeholders for losing a day’s profits.

This is only one scenario to consider. Below is a list of other common scenarios where a mobile operating environment could reap the benefits for your company:

  1. Companies where employees have to travel, especially to unpredictable locations;
  2. Companies offering flexible working arrangements;
  3. Companies who offer flexible holidays where staff agree to keep on top of emails and in return they receive extra holiday allowance.  This is becoming increasingly common.

Depending on the nature of your business, not being able to work when caught off-guard could prove very expensive. If you are a professional services firm for example, you could lose thousands of pounds in hourly rates for what is an unnecessary situation.

So how can technology help? Well firstly, consider purchasing laptops for your employees rather than PCs – depending which country you live in, the equivalent laptop is only marginally more expensive than a desktop. Even if the costs are 25-50% more, if it means your employees can work from wherever they happen to be, you will not lose the value of a day’s work. Replacing laptops on a three-year cycle is a good idea too, proactively replacing them and not when someone is inconvenienced. Accounts departments will absorb the cost as assets on a depreciation basis over the three-year period.

What else can help? Allowing external access to email, via a web-based login and on personal devices such as iPads and iPhones (but be careful to write a BYOD policy) will help for companies where full external systems’ access is not practical – at least your employees will be able to do some work – let’s face it, emails can take up a large proportion of our working day!

Some companies might wish to implement an ‘app server’ or sometimes known as Terminal Services environment. Citrix and Microsoft offer well-regarded solutions. App servers allow a web-based login to a working environment hosted by the company – depending on the system chosen it looks exactly like a user is working on their own computer but is working in their office environment. This is much more secure in terms of virus infections and data security. App servers can host all kinds of softwareMicrosoft Office, accounting packages or other industry specific technical software.

VPNs are also a good way to allow users access to things from a remote computer. VPNs are connection tunnels between a computer and a network, for use outside the office. They are interoperable between Mac and Windows environments too and are often used for accessing authorized file shares when working outside the office – this is especially useful for companies who need their employees to travel or like to offer a flexible working environment. If you do decide to implement a VPN then it is well worth implementing a remote connection policy. A remote connection policy checks the remote computer for up-to-date anti-malware definitions and will refuse a connection from a potentially dangerous computer. Ensure your employees are aware of this to manage any potential frustrations.

Nowadays most people of a working age own a personal computer and by providing a flexible working arrangement with staff, they are more likely to be reasonable when asked if they can work from home, provided the systems are in place. The important thing to note here is:

  1. You cannot ‘make‘ them work at home on personal equipment;
  2. You cannot control what equipment they have, meaning systems have to be compatible with both PC and Mac.

Creating widely available working environments is very important in its own right, but you must also make sure they are robust and the correct resilience measures are built-in. Employees will lose confidence and become reluctant to work remotely if the systems are unreliable or difficult to use. Consider a training session too and incorporate it in your company IT handbook.

If the above has not convinced you to move to a mobile technology structure, then consider this: With more people having more access to more systems, imagine how many smaller, more trivial tasks employees will get done whilst at home in the evening or in a hotel room after work one day…This frees up time for bigger tasks in the working day and leads to a much more flexible and pleasing working life, after all, it’s give and take that makes for the best employee satisfaction.

Today, most people have a device to at least send and receive emails and studies have proven an inflated throughput of work by allowing people access to email from personal devices. This is one small step – imagine the profitability from taking all the other steps outlined above.

Let us know your thoughts, we are always interested to hear either success stories or concerns.


About theithandbook

Reaching every day people and businesses with simple, effective and modern IT advice.


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