I always find it interesting how things change, and how those changes take on changes themselves. Perhaps I am showing my age, but back in my day, having flexibility in work location meant that instead of working for the New York office, you could work in your home town if the company had an office there. You still had to drive to work, but you didn’t have to move.
There was also a time when you could work out a schedule that had you in the office three times a week and you could work from home the other two. Sometimes, this was a necessity if you had children or needed to take care of a family member. This was basically an exception to the rule that you had to work out with your employer.
This too may be changing. A new report by Real Business said many employers will find that in the near future, they will have to offer more opportunities for remote working. Real Business considers itself to be the champion of U.K. enterprises and is now the most read small to medium enterprise (SME) website.
According to Telappliant, which has been delivering Internet telephony solutions since 2003 and is a founding member of the Internet Telephony (News - Alert) Service Providers Association, SMEs need to offer perks that will entice talented individuals to their company. The feeling is that if you want to recruit and then retain these people, you have to offer them anything possible to encourage them to work for you.
I’m not sure that I agree with the “offer anything possible” way of thinking, but considering that SMEs cannot compete on a one-to-one level with large corporations on the financial side, I do agree with Andrew Millard of Citrix UK when he said that there has never been a better time for SMEs to review the way that they are offering flexible working to employees.
I remember that when I wanted to work from home I had to set up a modem (if you don’t know what that is, you’ll have to look it up) connection from my home computer to my work computer and I could access files through the company network. These days, you are able to connect to corporate information from anywhere on almost any device. The size of your business is something that has no bearing on this.
One factor that has made working from home so much easier and doable for SMEs, as well as larger corporations is the improvements in various technologies. One concept that has had a huge impact is the idea of bring your own device (BYOD) to work. This is slowly being adopted by most companies regardless of size or location. This creates the ability to work from anywhere, so the natural progression is that you can finish what you started at home.
Another major factor is that carriers are extending the deployment of their LTE (News - Alert) networks. This, in turn leads to the fact that there is some expectation that we will see some, if not all of the major U.S. carriers launching Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services this year. If this happens, businesses will be the first to experience its benefits.
There are several benefits that businesses can take advantage of. One of the major benefits is that VoLTE will support higher quality calls and will connect calls much faster than a traditional GSM or CDMA call. Another cost saving benefit will be that companies can use Voice over IP phone services in the office. This could save SMEs a lot of money.
Finally, the best benefit of being able to take advantage of VoLTE and VoIP is that video conference calls can be a daylong event with minimal cost. You can also take it to the extreme and set up a tablet on wheels and have your own robotic presence at work, while you are having coffee at home. As you can see, that having some of your employees working from home could be beneficial to both sides.
The idea that company policy determines if an employee can work from home might be a thing of the past. In a few places in the United States, lawmakers have taken the concept to a whole new level. One of those areas is San Francisco, where a new law gives employees with caregiving responsibilities the right to request flexible work schedules. The city’s Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance, along with a similar law in Vermont went into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
We can see similar ideas in the U.K. Currently, parents of children aged 16 or under, or disabled children under the age of eighteen have the right to apply to their employer to work more flexibly if they have:
- worked for their employer for 26 weeks continuously at the date that the application is made
- not have made another application to work flexibly under the right during the past 12 months
On June 30, 2014, the Flexible Working Regulations will be amended. This will mean that the right to request flexible working will be extended to cover all employees after 26 weeks of service, rather than only those with children under the age of 17 (or 18 if the child is disabled).
I suppose that the “whatever gets the job done” adage applies here, with a little government intervention. There is no denying however that having the ability to create a more flexible schedule is something that could benefit both employer and employee.
Edited by Alisen Downey