More and more business systems are being moved to the cloud and it’s easy to see why, with the benefits in scalability, flexibility and cost savings that it brings. One of the other advantages of increased cloud adoption for businesses is the ability to change and alter working patterns for your staff and contractors.
Thanks to the wide availability of fast internet connections across much of the country, it’s much easier for businesses to move staff between locations without worrying about access to systems. It also makes it more practical for people to work at home or on the move. The recent shift towards providing IT infrastructure from the cloud also means there’s access to the latest technology regardless of location.
So, is cloud computing creating a world where we’re more likely to work from home rather than commute to an office?
There’s no Workplace like Home
According to research from Lancaster University we’ve reached a tipping point where working from home is now more common than working from an office. Indeed the same study suggests that by 2020 some form of flexible working will have become the norm for around 70 per cent of organisations.
Obviously, there are advantages to this. It cuts travel times and reduces the number of commuters for one. It’s also better for employees’ work/life balance as they are able to plan their work around family and domestic commitments. Lancaster’s research also shows that home working can boost productivity, improve staff wellbeing, and can even be a valuable draw when recruiting.
Allowing people to work from home also means that you are able to expand your team without needing to find more office space. There are minimal costs for additional hardware too. Using hosted desktop systems means that the company can ensure that everyone in the business is running the same software from a standard desktop running from the cloud. The advantage of this is that everything looks and works exactly the same whether you are in the office, on a branch site, or at home.
One of the factors that has inhibited the use of home working in the past has been the lack of communication options. Without the opportunity for ‘water cooler moments’ it can be hard for workers to feel part of a team.
The latest collaboration tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams overcome this problem by allowing real-time chat sessions, virtual meetings, the exchange of documents with the ability to track who has accessed and updated them, and more.
The cloud has also made telephone communication more practical for home workers. The increased use of VoIP phone systems means that your office number can easily be diverted to your home. It also means that you can make outgoing calls without having to reveal your personal number and without them being charged to your home account.
The use of VPN systems means that communication with your business systems can be secure wherever you are connecting from. This applies from home but also from public Wi-Fi connections such as in coffee shops or hotels.
Drawbacks of Home Working
Nothing in the world is perfect and there are of course some downsides to home working – “excuse me while I just sign for this parcel for next door” – interruptions that you wouldn’t get in the office for one. There’s also pressure on staff to show that they are being productive. In addition, since they have easy access to work tools all the time, they may feel the need to be available at evenings and weekends. This of course upsets the work/life balance that is one of the advantages of working from home.
It can be a problem for managers too who feel that they are disconnected from their team members and not sufficiently aware of what they are doing. That said, as we pointed out above, the latest collaboration teams can help to alleviate this.
Security is a key issue too. It’s vital to have policies in place and to train staff to ensure that they take proper care of their login credentials, for example. The simple reusing of a work password for something else could lead to your business systems being compromised in the event of a breach.
Despite these drawbacks, home working is rapidly becoming accepted by businesses around the world. All of the issues we’ve discussed can be overcome by a mix of technology and policy, and the benefits of home working in terms of flexibility and staff morale are of benefit both to your business and your staff.