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Remote working: The key to business success during public transport strikes

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/bikeriderlondon)

For businesses based in London and with staff situated on its key transport links, the recent spate of public transport woes across the tube and rail networks caused chaos for employees trying to travel to and from work, with many spending hours longer than usual on their commute, and some unable to reach the office altogether. 

The impact of the industrial action on businesses has been undeniable, with reports from the Federation of Small Businesses estimating that the 24-hour tube strike in January 2017 alone cost the London economy £300 million. 75 per cent of all tube commuters struggled to get to work causing financial disruption to many businesses and leaving some with empty offices. To combat this in the future businesses must prevent the disruption by implementing solutions to allow employees to effectively work from home.

The business benefits

Organisations globally have experienced a shift towards a more mobile way of working, from utilising different devices and hot-desking, to the introduction of flexible working, whereby employees spend part of their time in the office, and part of their time at home. Not only can this increase productivity and staff satisfaction, it also means that a firm is prepared should there be a reason why a number of its employees are unable to reach the office at any given time, as with recent public transport strikes.

For small businesses in particular, the effect of employees unable to work on location can have huge implications in terms of cash flow and efficiency. By utilising technology-based solutions such as the cloud, small businesses can harness the power of enterprises with big budgets and achieve the same IT and communication capabilities as if the full team was on site. 

How to implement remote working

Cloud computing has become the norm for a number of businesses, with cloud solutions forming a fundamental part of a majority of IT infrastructures, either in its entirety or as a form of hybrid between on-premise and cloud solutions. It is a model that can work for the majority of modern businesses, and is an asset to firms that seek futureproofed solutions.

The cloud is flexible, scalable and available. In more simple terms, any number of people in any sized business can use the cloud, and this can be scaled up or scaled back to fit the future needs of a business as it grows and changes. 

Solutions such as a hosted desktop and other cloud platforms provide employees outside of the office with easy access to documents, emails and contacts, using a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Whichever device they choose to use, they will be presented with the same desktop environment they would access in the office, preventing them from having to download documents on to a USB stick. All that is required is an internet connection, so if disaster were to strike suddenly and prevent access to the office, employees could simply log in and continue working from where they left off. 

Factors including security concerns and a lack of internal skills has historically resulted in a number of firms turning towards cloud solutions in recent months, with cost being one of the main draws towards this technology. Most cloud providers use a pay-per-user and pay-per-resource model, which essentially allows firms to accommodate any changes in staff numbers on a monthly basis.

Simple solutions for remote working success

Although it seems to be an incredibly simple solution, ensuring that employees have the device capability to work from home will only serve to benefit in the long term, whether this is purchasing a set of tablets for employees to take home, or giving all members of staff a separate work phone. Making users’ remote desktops available on all types of devices will help to make remote working a success. 

Communication is key in a business of any sector, and this is especially the case when employees are working from home. Ensuring that client calls and meetings are still possible is vital for productive remote working, so giving employees access to tools such as instant messaging, Skype and even web conferencing will allow a team to communicate beyond email. Not only does this prevent the long email chains which plagued remote working in the past, it also encourages productivity through meaningful interactions with customers and co-workers.

Whilst remote working is crucial for businesses who are affected by nationwide issues such as the recent spate of transport strikes across air, rail and tube, if an employee wishes to work from home on a longer term basis, it must be considered carefully. It is true that remote working is not for all employees and all types of businesses, it requires discipline and for staff to remain productive, instead of succumbing to the latest box set hit. 

Technological advances over recent years have made remote working a feasible option for most office workers. Most employees have their own PC, tablet or smartphone, and a home internet connection. A number of businesses find having some form of secure encapsulation and a staff intranet the key to complete cloud success, ensuring that all the information, documents and businesses tools they need are at their fingertips, with no need to email or call into the office with requests for sending files or help logging in. 

For London-based businesses or those with employees living on troublesome train lines, remote working is the key to prevent loss of revenue and maintain productivity. Looking forward, businesses without a remote working strategy should ultimately consider whether they can face any further loss should consider futureproofing their organisations, and look towards implementing a cloud-based solution to remain ‘business as usual’.

Robert Rutherford, CEO, QuoStar
Image source: Shutterstock/bikeriderlondon

Robert Rutherford
Robert Rutherford is chief executive officer of QuoStar, a consultancy specialising in business technology. Founded in 2005, it offers business improvement and technical consulting, outsourcing and cloud services.