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Get ready for flexible working

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Companies that want to stay ahead today need to offer their employees competitive working arrangements that respect their personal time. Also, if companies plan on keeping their employees’ talent, they should allow them the freedom to work on their own technology, writes DEON LIEBENBERG.

Many companies today are asking themselves the same question. Is our business ready to handle the expectations and technical requirements of a modern workforce that demands ever greater flexibility in where and how it works? Today, to attract and retain the best talent, firms know they must be seen to offer competitive working arrangements that respect employees’ personal time, and also their working habits – especially the freedom to choose their own technology.

Employees are, more and more, influencing the terms of engagement. One in three workers under 30 say they would prioritise social media freedom, device flexibility and work mobility over salary when evaluating a job offer. The onus is firmly on businesses to develop a winning formula – mixing enlightened employment policies with robust technical infrastructure to deliver satisfied, productive workers.

Of course, the smartest businesses have already recognised that such a seismic shift in working behaviour has the potential to compromise business integrity. There are plenty of concerns – will data be more easily compromised? Will productivity suffer? Will employees retain a sense of connection or will they drift apart, isolated by different technologies?

Your business is not alone in asking those questions. But while there are differing views on how best to tackle these issues over the long term, it is clear that there are three key steps that your business can take now to give itself an advantage in this brave new working world.

Step One: Unify Communications

One way to manage flexibility is to keep it simple. Successful firms know that the easiest way to do this is to integrate all fixed, mobile and desktop communications services into one ‚Äòunified’ platform, accessible from any device.

This means each employee has a single incoming and outgoing phone number across their fixed, mobile and desktop phones as well as one voicemail box and contact directory. The employee wins because they have a straightforward communications proposition. Business gains a future-proofed approach that delivers even greater savings as the company gradually moves away from dependence on expensive on-site PBXs.

Step Two: Enhance Collaboration

A genuine concern for business is that remote working creates distance between employees. Connections break down, and the sense of community engendered by a common workplace is lost. Without a regular team structure, firms fear, remote employees will ultimately be less efficient than office-based colleagues.

By extending the unified communications approach to include collaboration tools, employees can easily share ideas through instant messenger, video conferencing or through enterprise social media tools on any device through the same unified application. This helps ensure that off-site doesn’t have to mean out of sight.

Step Three: Ensure Security

When setting up flexible working initiatives CIOs have a big responsibility to ensure that data isn’t compromised. That’s why smart CIOs are embracing the cloud. Applications hosted in the cloud can provide real time protection yet requires no software installation, it scans all traffic to and from the company’s mobile devices while safeguarding against malicious attacks, and it blocks inappropriate content without impacting on device performance.

What’s more it can be integrated with your existing mobile data management strategy and deployed across multiple geographies within or across borders. And there are other benefits. The cloud also does away with the need to install and manage a security solution on site-based server equipment, which can be both complex and resource-intensive.

Greater mobility demands greater flexibility. Priorities are shifting, and companies need to accommodate and anticipate this new reality. There is no doubt that the successful firms of tomorrow will introduce inclusive policies that respect difference, and create a workspace that ensures employees feel fully connected, regardless of how they choose to work, and which device they choose to use. Following the three steps outlined above will give your company the agility it needs to attract the best and the brightest.

* Deon Liebenberg, Executive Vice President of Africa, Vodafone Global Enterprise

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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