How can businesses get the best from remote working? [Q&A]

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The days of spending all of your working hours in a single office location are increasingly behind us. Both employers and staff are demanding more flexible solutions. Add to this a new generation of millennial workers demanding a better work/life balance and it’s clear that enterprises need to deliver on new ways of working,

But how can they do this and what effect does the change have on corporate culture? We spoke to Rickard Hansson, founder and CEO of enterprise collaboration specialist Incentive, to find out.

BN: What's driving the demand for more remote working?

RH: Several things, actually. First, I would say the way people in general get stuff done nowadays. Everything is a finger tap away -- your "computer" is in your pocket. What everyone realizes and experiences is that they can get stuff done -- everywhere and any time -- so why not when it comes to work? And this has finally reached the C-level as well, meaning they have also discovered this in their own lives and are therefore more open to implementing it in the workplace.

Second, it's the need for work/life balance -- picking up kids, waiting for the service technician, etc. Getting control of your time gives you more time. And if you can get the same amount of (or often more) work done from home, why not do it? This is very tied into trust from management, of course, and dependent on the culture in the workplace.

Third, I would say is the need for "focus time". An office space can often be the most disruptive place you can be when you really need to focus on that report or preparing that presentation. I make it a habit to work from places other than the office -- a coffee shop, a startup incubator, etc. I always have my co-workers there, but I can still keep in touch and interact through our social intranet.

BN: What benefits can remote working bring for the enterprise?

RH: Some -- if not most -- enterprises have no choice working remotely with a distributed workforce in multiple offices around the country or world. Remote working is often translated into working from home, but remote working is really everything you do when you're out of the office or not in the same office as others.

If you succeed with remote working across the board, your enterprise will be better on every level. Cross-communication between departments will be improved, you will be more responsive when you have access to all knowledge and information all the time -- you can even get stuff done when you're stuck in your two-hour commute.

BN: Doesn't having people working remotely mean missing out on opportunities for in-house collaboration?

RH: You can NEVER replace the human meeting, especially when you need to work as a team. We do it all the time. We have offices on the West and East Coasts and one office in Sweden.

I fly to Sweden and the East Coast every five weeks or so, then I fly over people from the other offices to LA on a regular basis. The meetups are for what I call "focus sessions" -- issues we need to discuss in-depth and sort out so we can create a roadmap for the next 5-6 weeks. In between the meetups, remote working is a wonderful way of continuing the work. It maximizes the value and outcome of your focus sessions continuing your work through your social intranet using video chats, instant messaging, document collaboration, file sharing and more -- you just pick up where you left off, seamlessly.

BN: How can the corporate environment adapt to be viable regardless of employee location?

RH: This is always tricky, but it's something many businesses have been dealing with successfully for ages. Enterprises should create a strong foundation and policy for remote working, and not just about security and codes -- there has to be more focus on the people and the social layer where people can connect on mutual (business) interests instead of just finding people based on their title on the business card or hierarchy charts.

If remote workers are already implementing the social part, meaning employees are connecting and collaborating regardless of their location, you can easily weave it into the business' core values and culture.

BN: Doesn't reliance on the cloud for collaboration lead to additional risks for the business?

RH: The reality is you need the cloud to be truly remote. Even if you have everything on premise, you need VPN and therefore you are dependent on a carrier -- the Internet. So the cloud is always going to be there, whether you like it or not.

Instead of worrying about the cloud itself, focus on the services you are using and what control you have over them. Most breaches you read about aren't the cloud per se -- it's the service, and most services are in a multi-tenant environment. That means all data is stored in the same location for all customers and the only thing that differentiates one customer from another is a key in the database. The risk here is hackers can get in and find the "master key" to dump all the data.

Enterprises should look for single-tenant solutions with multi-tenant capabilities. The advantage of multi-tenant solutions is the never-ending stream of new features and upgrades that happen automatically. There are single-tenant solutions that have that same capability. In fact, many people will probably be reading this on a device that is single-tenant but still updated: the OS.

With single-tenant, you're in control of your data -- where it's stored and geographically located. You can have it on premise or in the cloud -- it's all up to you.

Image Credit: Dragon Images / Shutterstock

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