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January 31, 2012

Guest blog: Maintaining a winning workforce in the digital age Olympics

Andrew Millard of Citrix writes for CBR on how to get the most out of remote working during the London Olympics

By Cbr Rolling Blog

More than 3 million passengers travel on the London Underground every day. And, as any commuter knows, disruptions are far from unusual.

London Olympics

Fast forward 200 days to the London Olympics, when anticipated visitors are expected to reach the 5.3 million mark and we could be looking at more than 8 million people using the public transport system every day.

Although the Olympics will be a momentous occasion for London and potentially of great benefit to our economy, the effect that this huge influx of people will have on the city’s transport infrastructure and subsequently its workers and organisations, should not be underestimated.

This is likely to result in a dramatic increase in the number of absentees and late-comers and the effect of this alone on workforce productivity could be very damaging to businesses in and around London.

One of the most popular solutions being discussed in tackling this is the opportunity for staff to work remotely, with a reported 65% of organisations assessing the idea. However, more worryingly, only a quarter of these organisations appear to be looking to ensure their IT systems can cope with this change.

There are a few things that businesses can do now, to make sure they get the most out of such a strategy:

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Plan now
The most effective implementations are those which have been fully planned for. It is important to establish the desired goals from the new way of working, in order to put in place the most appropriate programme in due time.

This is not to say that solutions take a long time to implement however: if the need, objectives and timeline are clearly established early on, then systems can be up and running much quicker. As with any change that is likely to affect important areas of the organisation, it could be counter-productive to leave the implementation of a remote working solution to the last minute.

Specialist support
It is easy to become overwhelmed with what seems like a mammoth task. Many businesses will not have considered the need for remote working until now, so may feel they don’t know where to start.

However, there are many specialist providers who are able to offer support throughout the transition. By using bespoke hosted solutions, easy-to-use technologies can be implemented rapidly with best practice in mind. These solutions also tend to be very cost effective as there is little up-front investment and you only pay for what you require.

Think long-term
Remote working strategies are extremely valuable in enabling organisations to avoid major business disruptions. In the past if we were hit by a bout of bad weather, absenteeism and a fall in productivity would be an almost inevitable consequence. However, with the right systems in place, remote and secure access to business infrastructure allows staff to carry on as usual. And this applies whether it is attending a virtual meeting, training session or accessing vital files securely.

By having a remote working solution, employers can ensure continuity and maintain a ‘business-as-usual’ approach, even if staff can’t physically make it into the office.

Get staff on board
Some employees will feel more positive than others about an operational change such as remote working. However, by planning the strategy early and by giving staff time to adjust and get up to speed with new systems, change can be better received. Buy-in can also be more easily achieved by emphasising the benefits to the individual, like reduced business travel time and cost, and improved work-life balance.

Work with it
When you have established your strategy and your systems are in place, work with it. New solutions and strategies can take time to get used to, but by integrating them into everyday working, the transition can be much smoother.

By planning ahead for workforce interruptions, whether in the case of bad weather or to avoid transport problems such as tube strikes, remote working solutions will ensure better business continuity and productivity.

By adopting this approach organisations can take control of what, in the past, would have been an unpredictable situation. Continuity, workforce productivity and ultimately the needs of the business can therefore be met, more effectively.

Andrew Millard is senior director marketing, EMEA at Citrix Online Service Division.

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