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Into the cloud: The rise of the flexible workplace

The desktop is no longer the primary method through which people access the internet; faster, cheaper mobile data and the wide prevalence of Wi-Fi in businesses and public spaces is driving a decisive shift towards mobile use. 

Cisco’s Visual Networking Index predicting that mobile internet use will outstrip desktop by 2020 (opens in new tab), growing at an estimated 48 per cent annually. In addition, the way people interact with each other is becoming increasingly application based, with most major productivity platforms launching mobile apps, microsoft 365 being a prime example.

This increasing ubiquity of mobile devices makes them a powerful tool for business, boosting productivity and flexibility. Companies using mobile and in particular BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategies are still putting in place effective mobile working practices to ensure everything is secure and in line with company policy.

Many companies are turning to cloud based telephony to help them streamline this shift. A sophisticated hosted telephony package (opens in new tab) from a leading provider, with a robust network to back it up, is ideal for helping with the move towards flexible working. Some of these products have specific mobile applications that tie everything to a centrally administered system.

Benefits of a mobile work environment

The first thing any business owner needs to know when considering a mobile-friendly workplace is what they stand to gain. Enabling your employees to bring their own devices to work can bring a genuine increase in productivity, as it allows them to access the systems they need wherever they may be; at a co-worker’s desk, in a meeting, travelling to meet potential new clients.

They’ll be able to connect to the network and have access to everything they need to get the job done. The clear benefits of improved flexibility are the driving force behind 76 per cent of “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device) solutions (opens in new tab). Coupled with the continued expansion of cloud hosting (surveys predict that the cloud will become ubiquitous (opens in new tab) in years to come), more and more businesses are switching to a flexible working solution which allows employees to work just as efficiently and effectively wherever they are.

In addition, providing mobile access to your business network can make it easier for external contractors, partners and clients to work with you. Empowering visitors to hotdesk easily at your offices lets them work more efficiently without needing to be set up on a dedicated workstation.

Making the most of BYOD

A BYOD-enabled workplace offers a great deal of flexibility, but it’s not something that can be implemented overnight. Making sure that BYOD works for your business requires careful planning and consideration to ensure that you end up with a system that works for your employees and the business:

  • Network Capacity: How many devices can your WiFi network handle? Even if your employees are already able to use your business network, it’s likely that traffic will increase, and a faltering connection will make it hard to create the seamlessly flexible experience you desire.
  • Customer Continuity: BYOD enables your employees to be reached wherever they are, but the powerful call routing capabilities of a hosted telephony package can be useful in bringing together an employee’s different contact points. A communications system like Horizon Hosted Telephony allows businesses to route calls from an employee’s desk to their mobile phone automatically and seamlessly, providing clients with the same level of service that they’d receive if the employee was sat at their desk.
  • Cloud Hosting: Hosting your business’s telephony and communication system online provides additional flexibility for your employees, as they’re able to access all the information they need through a single centralised portal, mobile device, or softphone application on their laptop. Having a central, easily accessible portal makes communicating and collaborating consistently much easier.

Concerns of a mobile workplace

Creating a BYOD system can pose numerous hurdles, with security the foremost concern. Since employees can provide their own devices, businesses are unable to ensure that they’re all of a uniform standard, making it difficult to ensure network security. A recent study discovered that the majority of Android devices in use were running outdated operating systems, and that nearly a third still used an OS from several years ago (opens in new tab).

Although Apple regularly releases security updates for legacy iOS’s, outdated Android systems can often be exploited by hackers, resulting in compromised security if steps aren’t taken to safeguard your network.

There are several strategies which businesses can pursue to minimise the risk of misuse:  

  • Employee Training: Ensuring that your staff understand the importance of online security and how to implement it is a vital part of any BYOD service, and it’s vital to impress on employees why the rules need to be followed. Digital security training doesn’t need to be boring; include examples of how data leaks compromise a business, and follow up the training with on-the-job assessment.
  • Company-Owned, Personally-Enabled (COPE): COPE straddles the line between company-owned and BYOD solutions by providing employees with company-owned devices that are enabled for personal use. This tightens security by standardising platforms (and enabling companies to remotely wipe the devices), but requires the company to invest in up-to-date devices for their employees.

The flexibility and power of a mobile workplace has made 2016 the year of the mobile office, and the technological innovations driving this progress show no signs of slowing down - instead, mobile workforces empowered by modern telecoms solutions look set to become ever more widespread.

Though there are still some security concerns over the actual implementation of BYOD in the workplace, businesses still stand to benefit from a well thought-out mobile working scheme.

Gemma Maroney, Head of Marketing at Solution IP (opens in new tab)

Image Credit: Chaiyapop Bhumiwat / Shutterstock