In a period of time as short and recent as the last five years, the cost of disruption to the UK economy caused by natural disasters that has resulted in employees being unable to make it to work safely exceeds tens of millions.

Winter 2012 saw serious rainfall that finished the year as the second wettest in a century and the fourth wettest in a quarter-millennium according to a piece from the BBC.  The same piece goes on to say 6 years of the last 10 are also in the top 10 wettest.

2010 saw volcanic ash from Iceland paralyse UK airspace, resulting in 100,000 flights cancelled across Europe displacing 10m passengers.  The reported cost to the aviation industry was billions and the Financial Times reported April 2010 as the weakest month for growth in six months.

And when Mother Nature gets upset, the marketing machine at Bespoke Computing Ltd spins into action and talks about remote working as the answer to keep your business running despite the poor weather.

This is all very good but it does rely on the audience knowing what remote working is and what it can do for their business.  If you would like to know more, keep reading.

What is remote working?

In simple terms remote working describes the ability to work at a time and place that suits you.  It might be from your home on a Sunday morning, at the motorway services or coffee shop between meetings, or someplace else.  Other names for this include: home worker, road warrior and telecommuting.

Without question businesses have become more dependent on technology to operate over the last decade.  Remote working often relies on an Internet connection and computer to perform business tasks on the move.

Your utopia is having the means to complete any computer based task you can do in the office, done anywhere at any time to suit you and the business.

It’s not just about natural disaster

There is more to remote working than bad weather and keeping your staff operational when they cannot get to the office.  Remote working can bring significant business benefit come rain or shine.

The modern workforce is demanding flexibility from its employers, consideration for personal circumstance and situation.  However it is equally as important for businesses to operate effectively and profitably.

Enabling your staff to work from a setting of their choice with the proper management will increase your business productivity and competitiveness.  Your team will be happier, have improved health through reduced stress.  The environment benefits from reduced traffic congestion and pollution.

There is the suggestion that a business might employ only a remotely based workforce, providing the advantage of accessing talented individuals from anywhere in the country and removing the need for plush offices.

Much more than taking a laptop home

Do you have a business that employs workers whom never need to see a computer screen and work mostly away from the office, perhaps drivers or engineers or fitters?  Do they come to the office in the morning for their job sheets and return in the evening to file them?

Working remotely is more than equipping an office worker with a laptop and sending them home to get on with it.  Mobile devices and smartphones are enabling businesses to communicate with workers that traditionally would be left to their own devices.

Adopting such facilities will enable real time updating on business operations:  where is your engineer, what parts have they used?  Such transparency will increase your efficiency, make you more flexible and more reactive to the needs of your customers.

The technical components of remote working

For a remote working solution to be effective you have to clearly understand the requirements of what information should be accessed, and by whom.  This leads to follow-up questions about where information is stored, security considerations, etc.

Reliability is important with remote working facilities and an easy place to fall down is with your connections to the Internet.  This is both the connection of the remote worker and to your offices, assuming the information is based there rather than being a Cloud-based solution.

Home workers will most often use their home broadband connection whilst mobile workers will need a dongle or wireless access.  At your offices you may need something more substantial such as a leased line.

With any remote working solution security is essential.  Some facilities work on the basis of a secure link between worker and office established before any work can take place – this is called a virtual private network or VPN for short.

VPN that is specifically for remote workers is generally made up of two parts, the “server” and the “client”.  The client is your mobile worker and is often some extra settings within Windows or a small programme installed on the computer.  The server is based at your offices and typically a dedicated piece of equipment or some software that is enabled on a server.

The investment required to bring remote working facilities to your workforce will greatly depend on the infrastructure you already have in place and what you want to achieve.  And whilst the most basic implementation may cost only a couple hundred pounds, it’s possible you already have the facilities in place and you just didn’t know it.

Management effort required

Despite the benefits of equipping your workforce with remote working facilities, leaving them to get on with their work could be a ticking bomb waiting to explode.

Working remotely brings with it the distractions that you would not normally have at the office such as the family, doorbells, noisy animals, children et al.  If your worker is a social person the isolation of being home alone may also be cause for alarm.

You also lose direct supervision with remote workers so it is important that you are clear on your expectations from them and the boundaries they are working within.  This is more human resources than technology.

Will remote working benefit your business?

The benefits of remote working are unique to the business implementing it, however if in simple terms, you would get benefit from the ability to view or update the electronic information stored on your computers from anywhere in the world – the short answer is yes.

In this article we can only scratch the surface with what remote working is about and how it can benefit your business to its fullest potential.  To explore the subject further give us a call on 0845 004 3025 or use the enquiry form on our website.