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Taking remote working seriously


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If there’s one thing you can rely on Boris Johnson for, it’s speaking his mind. And it’s safe to say that his recent thoughts on people working from home haven’t failed to live up to his usual style.

“We all know that [home working] is basically sitting wondering whether to go down to the fridge to hack off that bit of cheese before checking your emails again,” Johnson said in the Mail. “I don’t want to see too many of us doing that.”

But Boris’s views on the subject are in fact pretty common. The question always hangs; do home-workers really work productively from home? Or do they lack supervision, use tactically timed e-mails to establish a busy façade, or indeed as Boris worries, find themselves constantly distracted by cheese?

Interestingly, Boris’s comments are at odds with those of the government, who’ve called on London-based civil servants to stay at home during the Olympics to help alleviate congestion. Clearly the government aren’t the only organisation considering the benefits of homeworking either. According to the Office for National Statistics, there are around 1.3m home workers in the UK, with a further 3.7m who either work from home occasionally or use their home as a base. And according to IDC, 37% of the world’s entire workforce will be mobile by 2015.

The increase in the number of people working from home over recent years has been made possible through improvements in technology, improvements that have made deploying home-working cost effective and that give users the same functionality as being in the office. Hosted VoIP has allowed businesses to deploy home-workers’ telephone services over existing broadband Internet connections, saving money on having to install a separate business phone line. Cloud telephony has helped take this even further, by making home-workers an integral part of the office telephone system with the same functionality as their on-site colleagues and a business telephone number. Telephony for home-workers is no longer an expensive compromise.

Deploying Unified Communications further improves home-workers’ ability to integrate and interact, not just with the rest of their organisation, but also with clients and suppliers. Presence helps staff to immediately see the availability of colleagues regardless of their location and choose the best way to contact them. Instant messaging provides a quick way of exchanging information without taking the time to use the phone or send an e-mail, avoiding delay and increasing efficiency. Video and collaboration features also help users spread across various locations work better together and help reduce travel costs and carbon emissions.

Organisations can deliver managed desktop environments to their users more easily, efficiently and securely using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. This service centralises the desktop and makes it accessible to the users remotely. This means that the applications and data that they are accessing are actually securely held in the cloud, and not on their local PC or laptop. Not only does this significantly improve security and help de-risk your organisation from data loss, it also allows users to use their own devices. This increasingly popular trend in people using their personal laptops and tablet PCs for business purposes is made far simpler and indeed more secure through the use of this technology.

For businesses not looking to deploy Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, home-working and an increasingly mobile workforce can bring challenges to managing IT security. ‘The office’ can now be anywhere, from an employee’s home, to a coffee shop, customer site or even an airport lounge. Secure Remote Access Services provide an encrypted tunnel across the public Internet, allowing home-working and mobile users secure access to corporate networks and applications. User verification and validation is assured using Two Factor Authentication, a double layer approach similar to that used by many online banking services.

The use of services from the Cloud in general helps make home-working simpler to manage and more efficient. Home-workers are now no longer dependent on systems hosted on customer sites. Instead, users receive their services via the Internet or a managed network, directly from the service provider’s Cloud. This helps improve availability of services and ensures that service continuity be maintained in the event of a major customer site outage.

So while home-working might not suit every job role, it does present businesses with some very clear advantages and attractive options. And while current technology cannot guarantee against the distraction of cheese, the range of communication and collaboration tools now available really does help remove the geographic boundaries between working in the office, and working from home.



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