Can technology support the flexible worker?

Written on 20 August, 2015 by Verity Meagher
Categories Small BusinessTags online businesssmall business

Feeling under the weather? Work from home on your laptop. On a business trip? Check your emails with your work smartphone and create presentations on your tablet.

With the increased popularity of mobile devices in workplaces, flexible working conditions are becoming more and more common – whether it’s working from home, remotely or travelling frequently for a role.

But despite the increase in mobile devices around the world, a recent survey by Thomsons Online Benefits in the UK revealed that a majority of businesses don’t have the right technology in place to support flexible working conditions for employees.

The benefits

To start with, it’s worth looking into why flexible work conditions are ideal for both employees and employers.

For employees, having flexible working conditions means they can tailor their role to create an effective work-life balance that suits them, and also to work to their own strengths and habits.

For some, mornings are when they are most productive, while they may have to look after children in the afternoons. For others, evenings are when great ideas hit. Some people need silence to work, while others need collaboration.

Flexible work conditions allow for these individual needs to be met, and it also means employers have happier and more productive workers. A survey by My Business showed 79 per cent of small businesses said flexible working practices helped increase productivity in the workplace.

What technology is needed? 

While businesses are aware of the benefits of flexible working and some offer flexible work conditions, many don’t have the tools necessary to support these conditions.

The right technology isn’t simply about having enough mobile phones, tablets and laptops to go around. It’s also critical to have:

  • Software that enables collaboration no matter where employees are.
  • The right cloud technology to ensure files can be accessed on the go.
  • The right security measures, backup and virus protection so employee devices aren’t compromised.
  • The right HR practices in place to ensure that workers feel like they are trusted if they are working at home or remotely.

While some software tools, technology and cloud platforms exist to help facilitate this, that doesn’t mean all workplaces are using them to help support their employees.

So is today's technology capable of supporting flexible work conditions?

In short: yes. But only if workplaces have a clear and considered strategy for implementing the technology required, an open and trusting attitude towards employees, and a strategy to minimise security risk for both the employee and the employer.

Online tools such as Trello, Slack, Asana, Dropbox and Google Drive can all help support working conditions that are not only flexible, but agile and mobile.

And for small businesses, the good news is that implementing flexible work conditions is easier than in large organisations – particularly with the right tools. It’s just a matter of making sure flexible working conditions are embedded in the workplace culture and part of day-to-day operations, rather than something that is preached but never practised.

What tools do you use to employ flexible work conditions in your workplace?