Disruptions such as this month's tube strikes have led more employees and business departments to knock on the IT department's door demanding that IT makes flexible working happen.
However, it is not the IT department's responsibility to develop the strategy and policies required, but purely to implement the technology that makes it a reality. For flexible working to truly succeed, the culture needs to be embraced by senior management, and should ultimately be led by the human resources department.
Flexible working is about changing working practices to suit the business landscape. It is also driven in part by changes to employment laws, not IT.
HR should develop the formal stance and policies, but in conjunction with others across the business such as property managers and IT.
To ensure that the IT department is delivering the most appropriate technology and the investment made is maximised, it needs to have input at each stage of strategy development.
IT managers should work closely with HR to ensure that regulatory issues are carefully considered in the development of the flexible working policy. For example, the increased use of mobile devices may lead to data being uncontrolled, so it is important that the overall policy is compliant with relevant security and data management laws and regulations.
Once the broad policy is defined, the best approach to defining how to introduce flexible working is to categorise the types of employees. From this it is then possible to scope out the demand for flexible working. It is essential for IT to have input at this stage of the process, as this dictates employees' IT requirements.
At BT, we categorise our workers into seven groups. These include full-time office-based workers, those that are predominantly office-based but are out and about from time to time, those that are on the move all the time such as sales staff, and those that are full-time home-workers.
Each of these groups will have specific network, hardware and software requirements, and therefore have a different impact on a business' IT infrastructure.
Once those with flexible working requirements are identified, the policy can be formalised and agreed, and the IT department can step in to facilitate.
By working closely with the HR team, the IT department can ensure that a concrete and appropriate strategy is put in place on which to base IT management and make flexible working a practical reality. And as IT continues to have a greater impact on the individual workstyles of staff, the IT department should keep an active dialogue with HR.
Mark Hughes is director of BT's Workstyle Group