BT’s Directory Enquiries, which has directory staff located in offices and their own homes across the UK, is a good example of how remote working initiatives can work well.
Remote working certainly reduces staff commuting, but if managed effectively, it can also greatly improve office workspace efficiencies and asset rationalisation by enabling initiatives such as ‘two staff to one desk’ programmes.
According to a recent survey carried out by analyst house Quocirca, around 70 percent of enterprises polled said a quarter of their staff work remotely at some point during the working week. As there is a very real likelihood that the government will introduce carbon taxes on businesses in the near future, there is no doubt that remote working is here to stay.
Businesses are increasingly looking to Green IT as a means of cutting expenses and energy consumption across their IT departments and a number of businesses have already started with this agenda. Server consolidation, automated power management and virtualisation are certainly popular deployments to realise significant cost and power efficiencies, as well as helping to start a viable social responsibility agenda.
IBM is a particularly good example of a company that has a strong green agenda, and the company has several strands to its ‘carbon management initiative’, which are applied to its own business as well as being offered to clients.
IBM has introduced a ‘travel foot-printing’ strategy in its consulting business to reduce client travel impact through influencing the choice of mode of travel. IBM also employs remote infrastructure management service for its server configurations, and assesses that if this were taken up by IT infrastructures globally we would see a 20 per cent reduction of electricity consumption – about 0.4 per cent of annual greenhouse gas emissions.
However, without a robust IT infrastructure and effective IT support in place, businesses will find it difficult to provide a reliable, safe and secure IT environment outside the main office walls. Businesses will increasingly rely on electronic technology to keep employees in communication with each other, and reduce the distance that both employees and customers have to travel. The pressure to provide a consistently good IT service to support this mobile workforce will, therefore, certainly become more intense.
Employee confidence in IT and the delivery of a quick and effective IT support are vital in carrying businesses through the next generation of flexible working practices. Staff need to know that they can rely on good IT support when working out of the office, and businesses will need reassurance that its corporate data is safe and secure in the hands of its remote workers.
Organisations should therefore ensure that they have a robust best practice IT Service Management programme in place to take them into the future. Implementing best practice processes will ensure that a measurable set of required IT services levels are consistently delivered. Only by doing this will the business ensure that its IT support programme is in the best possible condition to meet the challenges of an increasingly mobile workforce.
*Howard Kendall is chairman of Service Desk Institute (SDI)