People & Leadership

What flexible working means for your business

Does your business support flexible working? Mobile workers, home workers, and flexi-time are often adopted by large, dynamic organisations to improve processes and increase productivity, but how prevalent is flexible working in today’s small and medium businesses? In this guest post Sage Business Expert Craig Sharp helps small business owners understand what flexible working can offer their organisation.

Flexible working: a misnomer?

I run an IT support company, and I can see how information technology affects workers today. Although I’m at the coalface of innovation and see the benefits, it’s a misnomer to say everyone benefits from flexible working.

Today’s workers who need immediate access to their data either store it on a laptop (risking a serious data loss), or they contact a colleague in the office requesting an email, which they then review on their phone or laptop using the nearest wifi connection.

Access to tools, information and software that runs your business is no longer something that needs a physical office.

A survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Skype found more than a third (36%) of British workers say they feel they are just as productive working from home as they are in the office, while 23% say they could get more done in their own home than they would surrounded by the distractions of the workplace. Imagine an expensive management consultant telling you they could boost your business productivity by 23%. Would you say “No way”?

So, why aren’t we all working like this?

Working on the go

I’m writing this blog post on my laptop while waiting for a train at Euston station in London. I’m also using the WiFi to talk to my support engineers and managing inbound queries that require my attention. While sitting here, I’ve also emailed four different clients on account matters, and ordered new hardware from our supplier.

I’ve also used a cloud solution to review last month’s accounts figures and keep on top of outstanding payments from clients. All this, and I didn’t need to speak a colleague, call the office or send a single email to get the data I needed.

Misconceptions about change

Fear is at the heart of most business owners who are reluctant to make changes. The phrase of “We’ve always done it like this” isn’t always easy to justify, but smaller businesses fear change because of how it impacts on their business, and not just in a technical sense.

I’ve been an advocate of cloud services for some time. Using a cloud service doesn’t mean you use a different piece of software. Using cloud services simply means the information you have access to lives on a server and not in your building.

If you work with professional IT companies and use cloud services, data loss is highly unlikely. Similarly, there is often no need for retraining because cloud services are easy to use.

Think of the possibilities: if a colleague can access current finance information while working at home or travelling, they will become more productive and your entire business will benefit.

Flexible business and the modern economy

Working in the modern economy requires immediate access to information and being able to work anywhere that’s convenient. Businesses who don’t adopt this flexible way of working will find it hard to recruit those under 30, as this generation is used to working online, and they may not be keen on working on a business perceived as ‘old fashioned’.

Small business owners need to consider a more flexible approach to how they work and the services they need. It’s not about hardware and software. What’s important is understanding your business and using solutions to work in the most flexible and productive way possible.

Do you have questions about flexible working or cloud services? Share them in the comments below.