With the Olympics expected to generate 1m extra passenger journeys a day on London’s already overloaded transport network and a third of Londoners expected to change their travel routines during the 2012 games, could the inconvenience to business signal a move to remote working?
Commuters will notice changes to rush-hour patterns as crowds descend on some of the busier Tube lines and in the centre of town will be the greatest impact.
“It is going to be very much life is unusual and business is unusual,” the ODA has already helpfully commented, leaving it to lie with the City’s employers to decide on a solution to ease the strain on commuters.
But could letting staff rely on remote working, staggering their hours or working from home during the Games be viewed as a soft option?
At BT, nearly three-quarters of its staff operate some kind of flexible or remote working. Staff can ask to vary their hours so that they can plan social activities, parenting and a reduction in travel expenditure around their role. It’s paid off for BT as a cost cutting exercise – they estimate to have saved £500 million by encouraging it.
And at American retail giant, Best Buy, corporate headquarters staff were allowed time off to play golf, sleep in and then work evenings to catch up. The remote working experiment, suicidedly bold some might say - resulted in a staggering 35% increase in productivity – suggesting that freedom from the distractions of the office, pays.
So if some of the Capital’s main employers let staff work flexibly or remotely during the Games for three weeks and they too receive the benefits of reduced expenditure and happier, more productive staff, then why stop there?
The Olympics could be used as a springboard towards a much more widespread four-day office week with either staff working from home, doing compressed hours, or going part-time. A move that not only will help employers cut costs and ease the strain on commuter rail and roads (and ultimately the tax payer who funds their repair) but to help ease the pain of tough economic times. Perhaps then we will finally discover that remote working really can be a win-win.
Here are my tips to ensure that your organisation could benefit from a remote working strategy:
Tags: Olympics, remote working
Cloud computing | Hosted solutions | News | Remote working | Topical
You know we’re living in austere times when almost nine in ten businesses believe the government must do more to encourage growth.
Some 30 per cent of businesses think that reducing administrative burdens would encourage them to grow, while more than a quarter (27 per cent), feel that tax breaks would provide the best incentive for expansion, revealed from our recent study of 150 companies on the Iris Exchequer Roadshow surveying our accounting software customers.
A further 30 per cent say the uncertain economic climate will continue to be the greatest challenge for businesses in 2012, followed by operational costs (23 per cent) and staying competitive (18 per cent), with 12 per cent feeling that customer retention would be a challenge for them in the next 12 months.
John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), has an opinion on the challenges we are facing. He said we are living in "momentous times" with slow but seismic shifts in the world economy. With changes afoot around the globe, the UK simply cannot afford to compromise on economic performance, he claimed.
"If we fall behind, the future could be very different for our children and grandchildren," Mr Longworth stated. "Britain does have the potential to recover and make its way in the world. We have the talent, the energy, and the enterprise. All we need is an environment that puts business first." Boosting growth in our businesses will boost the economy and let Britain lead on the international stage.”
I believe that most businesses have already been through a sustained period of operational cost cutting but many are still under pressure to look for further savings. Tax breaks are just one solution that will help to encourage entrepreneurial activities and business growth, but it’s important that the government considers this as an urgent priority.
Regulations and administrative burdens will continue to hamper growing businesses, so it is important that they take time out to look at how they can improve procedures and efficiencies from the inside out.
“Britain needs an enterprise culture where people are helped into self-employment, enabling them to one say provide jobs for other people,” Longworth says. “Politicians have shown a level of resolve and determination to help business succeed this year, however, they have been nowhere near radical enough and have not been able to tackle the culture that deems business and wealth creation as negative." But the government can restore UK business confidence, he said, by facilitating the flow of credit to viable businesses, improving the UK planning system, and by overhauling the infrastructure and skills system.
With Longworth’s thoughts in mind it’s essential that businesses assess their existing processes and ensure they have the right tools and information they need to enable business growth – it’s a small but simple step towards improving efficiencies and making better, more strategic business decisions.
John Longworth concludes this point "Business is not just good for Britain, but is essential. 2012 could provide the tipping point for our economy. Not just because the next year is the nadir of a crisis, but because it provides an opportunity for lasting change. It could be a new start to an exciting future, the beginning of a renaissance in our fortunes based on enterprise, wealth creation and a new world view."
Tags: IRIS, Exchequer, accounting software, British Chambers of Commerce, business
Accounting Software | IRIS ABS News | News | Topical
A Finance Director for a pharmaceutical company regularly travels from Leeds to New York State, a lawyer moves from Sydney to Hong Kong after a spell in the Cayman Islands in between, a sales executive flies from Birmingham to Bogota, and the MD of a Manufacturing plant returns to the UK from China fortnightly.
The movement of professional people on this scale was unimaginable 10 years ago.Add to this that 60% of Finance professionals regard mobile technology as a valuable business tool for the whole company and the mobile workforce comes of age.
These results form part of a recent study conducted by us during our roadshow season that also found 71% saying that mobile technology increases efficiency and productivity - seriously widening the gap globally between where workers call ‘the office’.
This globalisation of business is not just reflected in the geographical reach of companies. For starters there is a global indication that all businesses face the same fundamental challenge - a shortage of the right people and skills in the right parts of the world.
Certain industries have also always had to draw on foreign professionals; oil and gas exploration and extraction for example, typically found in non-developed parts of the world where there is unlikely to be much local expertise.The search for energy and rising regulation in the industry means that even as local skills improve, there is still high demand for the "talent" of non-nationals and this often means a reliance on travel and remote working.
Mining for example is a challenged industry ... not only for specific technical skills but also for management and leadership skills and experience that have not had a chance to develop to the level and quantity required by fast-growing economies. Emerging economies too may also look to developed economies to meet skills shortages in areas like infrastructure, construction and engineering and mechanical goods production.
For many companies, the challenge isn’t about sending workers abroad for business, but of picking the right hardware and software solutions to equip its staff for remote working.
However, there is the need to get it right, from both a staffing and productivity standpoint. A deluge of new devices for example, including smartphones and tablets, has brought fresh challenges for corporate technology managers.
32% respondents in our survey viewed security as a barrier however when it comes to allowing staff to drive innovation and use their own mobile devices.
Traditionally, companies have chosen to issue staff with customised, secure laptops. In many cases though, employees find their user experience is severely compromised by the many layers of protection needed to safeguard corporate networks.
One potential solution is to host office software in the cloud.
Instead of running locally on the user's machine, staff can log on to a virtualised work environment through dedicated applications or a web browser. Such an approach allows staff to access a common user interface from a wide range of devices from anywhere in the world.
With Hosted Solutions, businesses really can provide access to all that information while keeping it within a central infrastructure - behind the firewall, if you will, allowing staff to access a common user interface from a wide range of devices.
It is that ability that is continually pushing the technology innovators on the device side to keep coming out with new capabilities, new formats, and yet not put the pressure on the IT organisations that have to service the user community.
What is clear is that with the cloud comes a trend towards greater flexibility in the way that workers can work seamlessly, remotely and globally. Financial services firms in developed countries are sucking in talent from abroad - to work on projects in places like the UK, the US and Australia. And BRIC nations are becoming increasingly likely to employ foreign professionals.
As regulation is introduced in developing countries, new skills are needed – for example in South Africa, Nigeria and even Singapore and Hong Kong where there is pressure to increase regulatory standards in legal and accounting.The advantages are that as well as the company having the ability to post staff in multiple locations, remote working gives employees more autonomy which in turn means that they’ll work harder, they’ll stay connected and organisations can be even more productive.
Add to this that companies are leveraging flexibility by offering tools and benefits for what is really needed for an individual assignee to make working more efficient and the global movement in foreign and remote working can only keep on rising.
Accounting Software | Cloud computing | Mobile | Remote working | Topical
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