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Flexible working week: Industry insight and analysis

This week (4-10 April) has been a week dedicated to flexible working, aimed at encouraging employees to request a less rigid working environment.

Flexible and mobile working has grown significantly in recent times, thanks to the development of cloud computing, the growth of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives and improved connectivity.

Various industry professionals - the very people driving these trends - have offered their insights into the importance of flexible working and the dangers to watch out for.

Jacqueline de Rojas, president of techUK and area VP, Northern Europe, Citrix:

“With next year set to be the ‘tipping point’ for flexible working, in which more people will work away from the office than at a desk from 9-5, we are on the cusp of real, positive change – for both employees and businesses.

“However, this will not happen without commitment and leadership. Employers have a key role to play if the UK is to fulfil its potential as a digital nation, ensuring that the right technology is in place and by appointing inspirational leaders to encourage a smart, flexible approach.

“Creating a more balanced and productive workforce requires a change of expectations from employers – taking the focus away from physical presence in an office and instead placing the emphasis on delivery, productivity and trust.”

Eduard Meelhuysen, VP EMEA, Netskope:

“For businesses attempting to balance data security concerns with employee productivity, providing flexible working can prove a challenge. At the same time, concerns around data security and privacy are mounting,with further data breaches hitting the headlines and the final ratification of the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) expected this spring.

“Many employees are keen to take advantage of flexible working options made possible by modern technology. The cloud has been the biggest enabler of enterprise mobility to date, but it also brings new security challenges – especially with our increasing reliance on cloud apps. Recent Netskope research revealed that European organisations now have an average of 769 cloud apps in use by employees, demonstrating our dependence on SaaS, mobile devices and apps which may fall outside the traditional corporate sphere. Cloud apps such as storage or collaboration solutions can boost productivity, but businesses have to work out how to deliver these securely to avoid compliance issues or a costly data breach. With employees often using their own preferred, unsanctioned apps, “shadow IT” becomes a danger to any organisation with remote workers looking to make use of cloud apps to work flexibly.

“Flexible Working Week aims to promote flexible working to employers and employees, and raise awareness of the associated benefits. But businesses must ensure that flexible working does not put sensitive data at risk. IT must ensure that it is aware which cloud apps employees are using and what data are stored in those apps, and then implement granular policies and controls to limit data exposure, thereby mitigating the threat of a data breach. In addition to increased visibility, IT teams should also monitor for any unusual behaviour, keeping an eye on activities and the type of data being uploaded and shared. Lastly, the use of intelligent policies is key because any blanket “block” policies will antagonise users, encouraging them to find workarounds and unsanctioned alternatives.”

Chas Moloney, director, Ricoh UK:

“Flexible working is fast becoming the new normal, as jobseekers increasingly prioritise flexibility over pay throughout the recruitment process. It’s no longer an issue of a particular workforce group, but a reflection of our changing expectations when it comes to work-life balance - and can deliver tangible business benefits such as greater staff retention and increased productivity.

“Companies must recognise the individual needs of their employees, providing them with the necessary technology to enable them to excel at work on their own terms. Initiatives such as ‘going mobile’ - providing staff with secure access to documents anywhere, anytime, and from any device - must be integrated into business practices before the benefits of flexible working can be fully realised.

“As a company that values the development of its staff, Ricoh UK, is a long-time advocate of flexible working, and also supports other businesses in their efforts to embrace this new workplace culture through innovative IT solutions.”

Image source: Shutterstock/bikeriderlondon