More than 35 years after the world’s first laptop went on sale, remote working is finally becoming a reality for many businesses. Whereas up until about a decade ago, investment in portable infrastructure and the lack of supporting business software were major hurdles to overcome, the ubiquity of mobile devices and tablets has accelerated the development of mobile apps and enterprise software that empower users on the go, increasing productivity and reachability wherever they are.

At the end of last year, IDC predicted that by 2020, 67% of enterprise IT infrastructure and software spend will be for cloud-based offerings, a figure that clearly marks a substantial shift towards a new way of mobile, connected working. Attitudes towards mobile working have changed in line with developments in technology and today, employees from all areas of a business can be given the opportunity to work remotely to some degree. This is made possible by technologies such as secure VPN networks which ensure that an employee’s internet connection, be it through Wi-Fi in a café, or through a mobile network on the train, is secure and encrypted. VPN software such as CyberGhost or Duo is easy to use and can be installed on anyone’s device, from mobile phones to tablets and laptops.  

Once secure connections have been established, employees can make use of the wide range of modern collaboration tools available, such as Slack for instant messaging and scheduling. To ensure meetings can be held effectively, software such as WebEx for video and web conferencing ensures that people feel connected. Furthermore, even for those who are tasked with planning calls and meetings for a remote, dispersed workforce, there are scheduling tools that ensure that colleagues’ varying time zones and working hours are taken into consideration.

What are the current pros and cons of remote working?

There are many benefits to remote working, both for the employee and the company. Employees benefit from flexible work schedules and the ability to work either at their home or on the go. On the other hand, companies can save money on office space rent and in turn are often able to enter into flexible working arrangements with their staff. Elements that can suffer are where personal interaction is key to the working relationships of the team, or where crossfire, ad hoc conversations held in the corridor or communal kitchen can lead to solving a problem or new input on a particular subject. To avoid this, it is important for employees to interact in approved, shared messaging environments and whenever possible, complement remote working with personal interaction.  

How to embrace remote working

There are a great many tools and apps out there that can support businesses with specific business needs, such as Concur for filing expenses, Lucidchart for visual communication such as drawing diagrams and WebEx or GoToMeeting for video conferencing. To ensure that both staff and company get the most out of remote working systems, it is important to communicate which third party apps and services the company approves of and which not. Mobile apps are generally a secure way to exchange information and for those with more advanced needs, bespoke enterprise apps can support internal ecosystems and increase productivity. This is possible without compromising on existing security standards, as enterprise apps can be made available from the company’s internal servers which in turn are protected by firewalls.

Remote working is likely to have an impact on our working environments on the scale of computers a few decades ago. To ensure that businesses and their employees make a successful transformation to new ways of working, it is important to have a strategy in place and implement systems that can adapt to changing needs.