The modern workforce has changed almost beyond recognition in recent years, thanks largely to advances in technology that allow us to connect to the intranet in different and more effective ways than was possible before. Mobile intranets are now much more common than even just five short years ago and in 2011, a whopping 60% of Jacob Nielson’s listed Best Intranets of the year were mobile enabled.
This is mostly due to the smartphone revolution of course. Now almost all of us own a smartphone in Australia, and mobility is “an increasing feature of online participation” which according to research saw a 510% increase between June 2008 and June 2013. Smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly important to Australian’s communication choices and this has also led to a rise in the use of VoIP too.
So what does all of this mean to business? For many, it’s led to a rise in remote working, BYOD schemes and an easier way for field staff to connect to the office, collaborate and reduce the amount of admin that has to be done once they return to base. However, having a workplace which is fragmented in this way can be difficult to manage and it’s these challenges that we discussed in our webinar on managing the distributed workforce.
Addressing the Challenges
There are many challenges that come with offering remote working and BYOD, the biggest of which for many are centred around security. However, whilst initially the cloud was seen to be an inherently insecure platform, there’s now much more confidence in the technology. It’s important though that a company approaches any new project, including BYOD and teleworking, with sound planning, which should include:
- Strong policies – employees have to know what is and isn’t acceptable when connecting to the company intranet. With this in mind, a strong policy should be adopted and written up to address common issues such as what apps can be downloaded and used.
- Education – the end user is often the weakest link when it comes to an organisation’s security and as such, educating staff on the dangers of opening attachments etc. should be a priority.
- Shadow IT – workers that become accustomed to using their own devices often find their own solutions for saving and synching their work between each device. This leads to the organisation losing a certain amount of control when it comes to security. Thus, organisations should create a policy which states explicitly what software is allowed to be used for work.
How secure the cloud is depends largely on the vendor, as they are not all created equally. It’s wise therefore to ensure that when choosing a supplier, the organisation looks carefully at the Service Level Agreement (SLA) to see where the responsibility lies in the event of a breach or outage. For some organisations the responsibility will lie with them to some extent if they’re required to comply with certain regulations. For example, if a company takes credit cards, then they will be required to comply with PCI DSS regulations, whilst if they are a part of local government, then there will be additional guidelines to comply with.
Cloud offerings tend to be more secure as they are hosted in data centres, which are regularly backed up, have a sound disaster recovery plan and high-end security products in place. This should all be checked when looking into cloud software and other hosted applications such as remote desktop and backups.
Collaboration and Productivity
It’s now clear that effective collaboration increases productivity as numerous studies have shown. Enabling collaboration on the intranet allows remote workers to feel less isolated than they otherwise might when working from home. This means creating areas on the intranet where they can connect to and work with others.
The intranet should provide:
- Video capabilities
- Shared workspaces
- Instant messaging
- Social tools so that remote workers can quickly find those that they need to speak to on the intranet without having to trawl through address books
- Knowledge base
All of this can really help to support the remote worker as not only do they have access to all of the information that they need on the network, but also to people who they need to contact or work with.
Blurring the Lines
Remote working allows employees to work a little more on their own terms. This is not a bad thing, as the line between home and work becomes increasingly blurred, many employees prefer to manage work hours at a time that better fits in with family life. Allowing workers the freedom to do this enables a happier workforce who are more inclined to work harder.
The intranet is the key to all of the challenges discussed so far, as given the correct tools to enable the worker to connect to the office, find the information necessary to effectively do their job and collaborate efficiently enables motivation, the worker to feel that they are valued, and in turn to do their job well.
Training can also be implemented in this way so that the mobile workforce never feel that they are forgotten about or missing out. Again, this is something that’s easily implemented on the intranet and can these days be delivered to mobile devices for workers to access in their own time.
Offering teleworking is just one way in which an organisation can find itself having to manage a workforce that’s distributed over more than one area. Larger organisations which have a number of offices around the world will also find themselves faced with similar challenges. However with sound planning and the implementation of the right tools, these challenges can easily be overcome thanks to the modern technology which make the contemporary intranet a powerful tool for enabling effective collaboration and a content workforce.
Challenges Faced by the Worker
Of course, it’s also important to look at what challenges will be faced by the worker as well as the organisation.
We discuss this, as well as technology and the intranet and how these can be leveraged to effectively manage a remote team, in our Intranet Success on-demand webinar.