Vodafone: How to make Flexible Working and Telecommuting a Success
There is a big question looming over the minds of today’s businesses: how do we continue meeting the expectations and technical demands of the modern workforce, while supporting the needs of the business?
Employees are increasingly influencing the terms of employment, with one in three workers under 30 saying that, more than salary, they would prioritise the flexibility to work anywhere at any time, followed by social media freedom and the ability to use personal devices at work when assessing a job offer.
This is putting the onus on businesses to develop a strategy that combines progressive employment policies, with a robust technical infrastructure. The companies that fail to adapt to more amenable ways of working such as telecommuting will be the ones left behind.
So what does greater flexibility really mean for businesses? Is there a risk that employees will become less productive? Can they be trusted to do their jobs without being constantly present? What about data security, with employees accessing and sharing files remotely? Could this make businesses more vulnerable to data breaches? Will telecommuting isolate employees and impact the overall quality of work or their ability to collaborate?
And what does greater flexibility mean for employees? Will satisfaction rates rise if business hours are invested in “work” rather than wasted on lengthy commutes? If people can more easily meet family needs and personal obligations could this boost morale and company commitment?
One of the most sensible things a business can do to prepare for and manage flexible working is unify its communications. By integrating all fixed, mobile and desktop communications services into one ‘unified’ platform, employees will have the tools they need to work outside of the office.
By combining these transformative technologies with the right telecommuting strategy, companies can improve productivity and save costs without creating unnecessary security risks for the business.
If an employee is always within reach of customers, clients and colleagues then it doesn’t really matter whether they are at their desk, in a coffee shop between meetings or working from home.
By unifying communications and providing each employee with one single phone number across their fixed, mobile and desktop phones as well as one voicemail box and one contact directory, calls and messages can always be routed to the right person.
This is a win for the employee, who can now be reached as easily as if they were sitting at their desk and a cost-saving strategy for the business, which can gradually move away from a dependence on expensive on-site PBXs.
Extending the unified communications approach to include collaboration tools, can also help to prevent remote working employees from feeling cut-off from colleagues. If someone can’t find a file on the server they can simply instant message their colleague to help them locate it.
If another is inspired by an idea for a client they can video conference in their team mates to sound it out. Or if a team needs to collectively work on a large report they can send the latest iteration back and forth using enterprise social media tools.
This helps to maintain a collaborative culture where knowledge is shared, ideas are bounced and people feel part of a team.
With the right tools employees can work productively from the location that best suits them, on their chosen devices and at the times that fit best around their personal circumstances.
To support more flexible working practices, however, businesses need to first put the right mobile security strategies in place.
By hosting applications in the cloud, CIOs can provide real-time protection, scanning all traffic to and from company's mobile devices, safeguarding against malicious attack and blocking inappropriate content without impacting on device performance. And this can be seamlessly integrated into existing mobile data management strategies and quickly deployed at a local and even global level.
It also removes the need to install security services on site-based server equipment, which can be resource-intensive for the IT team to manage.
Enabling a telecommuting culture
There is a strong case for telecommuting. Employee expectations are shifting, and companies need to be ready for this new reality. That means inclusive policies that respect the personal commitments of employees and a total communications strategy that ensures employees feel fully connected, regardless of how they choose to work, and which device they choose to use.
Getting this right means having the business agility to attract the best and the brightest workers of today, while future-proofing for tomorrow.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”