Learning from experience
Orange Business Services provided wisdom generated from its own experience in the "how to boost employee productivity" session here at Orange Business Live 09, addressing how to use remote working technologies to improve on-campus communications for businesses with a mix of office-bound and nomadic workers.
Orange's Mark Fitzpatrick noted that as the company transformed from being a "networking company to a professional services company", more and more staff spent an increased amount of time away from the office - around 50% of the staff in the Slough can be described as nomadic. But this has meant that for the staff left in the office, there was a loss of the professional collaboration and social connections which drive business.
The rollout of fixed-mobile convergence technology has enabled staff to remain connected wherever they may be, with document sharing and telepresence enabling collaborative working between distributed staff. The addition of "presence" features, similar to those provided by instant messaging applications, mean that staff are always aware of the status of colleagues, including if they are on a voice call, so they can chose the most appropriate contact method and time.
For employees in businesses where staff spend off-site, for example auditors who may spend significant time at customer sites, calls can be routed to the customers IPT network, again extending communications beyond the physical boundaries of an enterprise.
But these products are equally applicable to enabling more flexible workplace practices, which Orange has adopted in Slough. Hotdesking is in place, with staff able to reserve places for when they are attending the site, and fixed-mobile convergence technology enabling reduced set-up and breakdown times. The office has also been restructured for collaboration, in recognition of the fact that staff generally visit the site in order to talk through ideas with their peers.
In addition to enhanced communications possibilities, flexible working has allowed Orange to reduce real estate costs, and "neutralise weakness" with regard to fixed office sites - attracting and retaining staff from a wider geographic catchment area, who may otherwise have been put-off by a long commute, especially if they already live near key customer sites.
There are, however, some issues which could hamper the rollout of flexible working technologies, not least of which is user attitude. For many staff who first came into the workplace before current working practices became commonplace, giving up the desk may not be an immediately popular option. But it was suggested that the adoption of new working practices among younger staff may rub-off among the old-guard, once they can see the benefits delivered by new technology.
Cultural issues also impact adoption of nomadic working practices. Among Orange Business Service employees, the figures range from 70% in New York, to 30% in Tokyo. A number of criteria come into play here, for example with the prevalence of small houses in Tokyo given as a suggestion why working-from-home may be less popular in this market.