Over the past few years there has been an upward trend in the popularity of flexible working. Whether that is an employee working from home, working compressed hours or even job sharing, the figures suggest that employers offering flexible working has quadrupled in size over the last decade.
One of the biggest benefits of this is that it empowers employers to hire or retain the best staff. As employees go through The Circle of Life (yes, that was a Lion King reference), their circumstances change, whether that be having children or moving homes. Flexible working enables employees to compress their hours so they can do the school run, ensure a move of home doesn’t result in a move of job, and maybe even spend a couple of hours in the ‘virtual office’ after the kids have gone to bed.
The main reason that companies are able to offer flexible working opportunities is the advancement in Unified Communications. Unified Communications (UC) encompasses a vast array of both real time technologies (instant messaging, presence information, telephony/VoIP and video conferencing) and non real-time communications (integrated voicemail, email and fax). UC has sprung as a result of the increasing speed of internet connections in the past decade, most notably the roll out of Superfast Broadband to the home has enabled UC to be available to an increasing number of locations.
Looking at the specific technologies in more detail, a crucial element of UC is VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). Telephone Servers/PBXs no longer need to be hosted on premise at the office, instead they can be hosted over the internet, within the Cloud. This means that an employee can use the work telephone system from the comfort of their own home.
The Cloud, a second huge element of the UC platform, is used for much more rather than just telephone servers/PBXs. The use of Cloud based Virtual Servers enables employees to work on documents simultaneously. Whether they are two doors, two miles or two time zones apart, if there’s an internet connection, simultaneous working is possible.
Naturally, there are concerns with flexible working from both the employee and employers point of view. From the employer’s point of view, they have no idea where their worker is or what they are doing. A fair amount of trust is needed that the work is actually being undertaken. Of course this can be monitored by output but also UC has a presence monitoring system, so you can tell when someone is online and when they are not.
There you have it, the internet is not only a wonderful place to watch videos of a skateboarding cat but it also means you can do a day’s work without getting out of your pyjamas!