If there was ever a good time to assess the benefits of home working, this week would be the perfect opportunity. I was surprised to read in Saturday’s Times
that a little over 690,000 employees are now working from home as I expected it to be higher. Whilst the sharing of snow stories at the coffee machine might be fun there is no doubt that home working has not yet gone mainstream. It carries a lot of benefits for those companies that have seen productivity plummet as a result of the snow, (£1billion a day lost according to The Centre for Economics and Business Research quoted by the Times.
There are lots of tools available online and through social networks liked Linkedin that can assist with flexible working patterns. I’ve been introducing my clients to the benefits of Google Docs which enables you to share docs via the web and to collaborate on shared project documents and costs you nothing. Go to Meeting is another great tool that can help with running remote meetings where you can view each other’s screen and dial in to join a meeting.
There are barriers to home working and it’s clear that it’s not for everyone as some people find that cabin fever sets in and they are climbing the walls of their spare room after a few weeks and can’t wait to get back to a “proper” office and have some company. However as a temporary set up to cope with the vagaries of the UK weather having some “cloud living” can be extremely valuable for maximising staff productivity. Basically this means putting some key documents such as your emergency procedures and key contact details on the web. Your staff can then log in to access these crucial documents from anywhere which can be invaluable in times of any natural disaster be it flooding, snow or anything else. Everyone thinks disasters won’t happen to them.
There are an increasing number of people that are now accessing all their documents via a “cloud”, basically a remote server that they can access from anywhere via the web. Call centres are key areas that could benefit from a web support set up even if it’s a temporary measure.
All those companies in the hospitality industry with Facebook pages are finding out that this is a great way to enable their customers to keep each other updated on road weather conditions as they travel to and from their properties. So my recommendation for improving productivity in these snowy times is to have a combination of social media like Facebook, a “cloud” set up and core documents on some useful web platforms to minimise your shared productivity losses. Having just battled home on a freezing cold, delayed train I am starting to think carefully about how I can convince my clients to embrace more cloud living.
 The Times 4 December 2010 Pg 59