As we face a new decade, one of the major workplace trends in the coming years will undoubtedly be flexibility. Traditional notions of the Monday to Friday nine-to-five no longer apply in today’s environment, while new technology has made it more practical than ever for people to work effectively whether they are in the office, on a train or at their kitchen table.

This, coupled with the evolving expectations of millennial and generation Z workers, for whom a good work-life balance is a top priority when looking for a position, means that many businesses can expect to receive more requests for home working in the coming years.

In fact, as of this year, half of people are expected to work from home on a regular basis, and this is set to offer a range of benefits for employees and businesses alike. 

Why a good homeworking strategy matters

First and foremost, embracing homeworking ensures your business is aligned with the expectations of today’s workforce. This strategy can lead to higher morale and better productivity for workers, as well as reducing the time and environmental impact of commuting and the cost of running an office. IT can also help businesses attract and retain the best talent. 

However, in order to make this work effectively, you’ll need to make sure your remote workers are equipped with the right technology. If homeworkers struggle to access business-critical data or applications, or find their connections are too slow, many of these potential benefits will be lost.

As well as ensuring they have access to all the same tools and applications as office-based staff, the key to success for any homeworking initiative is to ensure these workers don’t feel isolated from the rest of the business and are playing a full role in projects and discussions.

So what tools do businesses need to ensure their homeworkers are fully engaged and have the resources they need to work effectively from home? Here are five must-haves. 

  1. Strong video communications

A common objection to homeworking is that people will lose the face-to-face interactions that are so vital to good communication. Therefore, being able to maintain this connection through the use of high-quality videoconferencing solutions is a vital part of any homeworking strategy.

An effective videoconferencing solution should offer more than high-definition video that eliminates lag or choppiness. It should also be able to connect all users, from large-scale meeting rooms and suites to workers on smartphones, as well as integrate smoothly with key business applications.

  1. Collaboration tools

When it comes to collaboration, integrated solutions that allow employees to work on the same documents at the same time are a must. When combined with videoconferencing and other services like instant messaging, solutions such as Microsoft Teams and Office 365 can help employees collaborate on files in real-time, see a full record of any changes and have discussions directly in the documents.

  1. Cloud services

Cloud computing offers a wide range of services to users. In addition to tools like Office 365, offering applications from customer relationship management tools to specialised file-sharing services via this platform is essential in supporting the productivity of homeworkers. With browser-based technologies and online storage solutions, businesses do not have to worry about what devices their remote workers are using, and can also better control the security of data accessed from outside the firm’s perimeter.

  1. Intelligent telephony

While combined unified communications tools like video and IM are a must have, traditional voice services can’t be overlooked. With the right tools like SIP trunking, businesses can easily configure their phone services to automatically redirect calls to an employee’s home phone or mobile, for example, to ensure that wherever they are, they are just as reachable as if they were sitting at a desk in the office.

  1. Fast broadband

None of the above will be possible unless homeworkers have the right infrastructure to support these technologies, and this means a fast internet connection. This may not have traditionally been something IT departments have concerned themselves with, but in today’s more flexible environment, it will be their responsibility to ensure their remote employees have the right solutions.

Consumer-focused home broadband may not always offer the performance necessary for today’s data-intensive applications, which is why businesses must consider equipping workers with technologies like full fibre broadband to ensure they are making the most of the productivity benefits homeworking can offer.

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