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Cloud versus the traffic

As more commuters move into cities, congestion has caused a decline in productivity. The workplace now has to adapt to this problem while meeting employee demands, writes BRIAN TIMPERLEY.

Although the “work from anywhere” phrase has been thrown around ad nauseum, the truth is it has never become a reality. Corporates, specifically some of the big financial institutions in Sandton, are realising they have to offer flexible working time and flexible computing in order to attract and retain the best talent, while ensuring optimum productivity from every employee.

To answer the question about how companies go about retaining staff, and lessen the impact of unproductive time in traffic, the simple answer is to allow them the flexibility and accessibility to get the job done. There’s no real need to ensure employees are sitting in physical office space any longer, since people can now collaborate and meet virtually. Talented individuals are inevitably moving to companies that afford them the work flexibility they demand, and saving hours everyday in productive and personal time.

This raises another question about what the future working world will look like and what technology will be used to streamline the process of working from any location and on any device. Forget about referring to the office or workplace of the future: the reality exists now!

The fact is, access to data and applications is more important than the historical concerns over available connectivity. Connectivity has become a commodity in recent years, and its cost is driving down almost as fast as its access is improving. Our current levels of access in metropolitan and outlying areas provide real freedom to access data from anywhere.

We need to redefine the way we work, and rather focus on being more collaborative with co-workers, sharing and accessing applications, documents and data when needed. The ability to access documents from anywhere means you’re achieving two things: you’re avoiding sitting in unproductive traffic congestion and you’re getting more done in the time available to you.

Cloud-based collaboration, which is available through a number of operators locally and internationally, delivers far higher levels of efficiency because you’re collaborating on the same master document, avoiding the need to send copies of documents back and forth multiple times. True cloud-based collaboration means you can track changes back and forward, for as long as needed, and never fear the potential loss of critical data.

Users simply have to embrace a new way of working. The positive, tangible benefits are clear:

There are more than enough options available to businesses of varying sizes to ensure their employees remain productive, are able to work remotely and from any device. We’re no longer constrained by the desktop PC or laptop computer: modern tablets, smartphones and other handheld devices offer the same functionality, processing power and a more intuitive interface than antiquated desktop PCs ever have.

Allowing employees to work remotely while connecting via VPN is a legacy approach to remote productivity, and often proves more cumbersome and challenging than it’s worth: that was how we worked ten years ago. More reliable, and readily available connectivity in South Africa, enables users to gain access from anywhere: and newer, lighter and more robust technologies are available on the market‚Ķ technologies that in many cases, render VPNs unnecessary. If you’re connected to the internet, you’re able to securely work, without the cumbersome configuration of a VPN.

While everyone appears to be fixated on how mobile their employees can be, the focus should rather be on how accessible their applications and content is. In fact, most “mobile” applications are watered down versions of the original, with limited functionality: in reality, fully-fledged applications are already being delivered to devices through any internet connection, allowing corporate networks to be securely accessed from anywhere.

The key criteria to attract and retain talent is to allow them flexibility in their work. Make it clear that the location from which they work is irrelevant, and provide access to data and applications to get the job done.

Once we’ve convinced people to avoid sitting in unproductive traffic jams, we’ll have made some real progress. Always bear in mind that happy staff are more productive. If morning traffic is a nightmare, pull over, enjoy a coffee and plough through your emails, update your financials, or write that urgent sales report‚Ķ all from your iPad if you like.

If traffic is always bad, many companies now allow employees to work from home in the morning to avoid rush-hour. Those who get in very early to avoid sitting in traffic, are then entitled to leave early. The question is whether or not companies can embrace mixing the two, which is the very definition of flexibility. One thing is certain, today’s ability to work remotely enables any level of flexibility a business chooses.

There’s a new way of working… start embracing it or risk being left behind.

* Brian Timperley, MD, Cloudware

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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