Taking The P out of cloud computing – no jokes please – and introducing cloud commuting is one direction that I can see the new technologies being utilised in coming years.
Since the mid 1990s I have been hammering home the advantages of what we then called teleworking and even worked on a four year European Commission project to see how the evolving Internet technologies could be beneficial to remote communities.
I think I can safely say that telework adoption has been a bit of a damp squid, but the dynamics of work as we know it has changed dramatically for a number of reasons.
The first is that climate change is altering weather patterns and uncharacteristic changes in snow, rain and wind has made the daily commute from home to the office fraught with challenges and potential danger. No sensible employer would risk the lives of valued employees by insisting they try and get to work when local law enforcement agencies and governments roll out that familiar phrase – “only travel if it is absolutely essential.”
Second, travel costs are rising and eat into salaries that in today’s economic climate have probably been frozen. I read somewhere this week that the average worker in London spends around one fifth of their salary in commuting expenses. The annual train fare from where I used to live to London is now in excess of £4000, that’s a sizable chunk out of anyone’s wage which affects standards of living for a large number of people excepting merchant bankers – please feel free to translate that latter group into rhyming slang!
Third, terrorism could well be an increasing daily fact of life and with traffic and environmental infrastructures seriously affected, getting from home to work may not be possible very day.
So what is a small business owner to do? Here are a few bullet points to consider.
- Get rid of any misconceptions about people working from home generally go out and play golf all day. Some studies have shown that home workers often put in more hours, spending what was commuting time as extra work hours. Home working could give you more bang for your buck or however the American expression goes.
- Involve your team in creating a home working strategy. Yes, recognise your employees have brains and I bet you there’s a high percentage that are more technically aware than you or possibly your IT people!
- Start small. Create a pilot project with volunteers and let them to lead. Ask them to research the many excellent services that are available for remote collaborative working. Then create a strategy. Run it as a walled garden until any snags are ironed out.
- Don’t flood the project with IT people. Your “real workers” will most likely be using any telecommuting services and, without being rude, the lowest common denominator may be your best ally.
- Don’t force people to do it. Believe it or not there are people who will not bite your hand off and to whom working from home is nothing short of their worst nightmare, their Room 101. These people enjoy the banter, the chats around the water cooler, the presence of other workers.
- Hold regular review meeting creating and implementing new working practices is an organic and evolutionary process and not to be written in tablets of stone. Flexibility is key and the ability to recognise a problem and turn it around is essential.
- Stress to those in the office that their home working colleagues are not skiving and encourage them to interact on a regular basis using the collaborative services. This shouldn’t be hard to implement. How many people at present send an email to a colleague in the same office rather than lift the telephone or walk to the other person’s desk?
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Seek out other SMBs that have gone down this route and share best practices.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but will serve as a good starting point – and don’t forget to let me know how you get on so we can share experiences and knowledge.