A new survey by Telewest looking at how communication tools impact productivity has found that an increasingly nomadic UK workforce has become a lobbying force, demanding flexible communication tools to deliver the same efficiency and productivity remotely that phone, fax and e-mail currently enable in the office.
Some 86% of companies surveyed said they made flexible working available to employees, and this seems to be a wise decision – flexibility made staff want to work harder, made them more accommodating with demands on their time, and gave them a greater sense of responsibility.
However, nomadic working does bring disadvantages – the key issues cited being the unavailability of people, or poor technology.
The survey highlighted the need for presence-based business tools such as instant messaging or PC-based videoconferencing, to enable staff to access, share and send information and collaborate with their team, wherever they are, without adding to infrastructure complexity.
With companies such as Visual Nexus having launched IP-based online communication technologies that promise to do just this over the past six months, it looks as though the nomadic workers’ prayers could be set to be answered.
Julien St.John-Dennis, director of voice at Telewest Business, said, “Remote working is no longer just a home/office divide, it is about being able to communicate with others and work productively anywhere in the world. The tools are available to allow employers and employees to take advantage of new ways of working, and provide a better work/life balance.”
Prof Margaret Bruce of Manchester Business School added, “The advantages of flexible working will be optimised by tools that allow people to manage their time, availability and contact when away from the office, in exactly the same way as they could before.”
The survey was conducted on behalf of Telewest Business by Manchester Business School. Public and private sector employees in businesses with between 50 and 1,000 employees were surveyed in January and February 2005.
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