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Opinion: the case for flexible working

Advances in audio and video meeting technology means employees no longer have to depend on an increasingly unreliable and expensive rail network, says BlueJeans' Paul Scholey.

Advances in audio and video meeting technology means employees no longer have to depend on an increasingly unreliable and expensive rail network, says Paul Scholey, VP of international sales at BlueJeans.

It’s perhaps of little surprise that nearly 40% of trains in the UK last year failed to run on time. For the nation’s long-suffering commuters, it often feels like the rail network is getting worse not better. With the cost of nationwide rail travel having inflated by 40% since 2008, and the price of rail tickets expected to increase a further 3.5% next January, commuting to work has simply become less viable for thousands of employees. Widespread travel delays are adding to the frustration and now is the time for all businesses to support their workforce and invest in flexible working alternatives to ensure employees do not have to rely on public transport to get work done.

In the past, businesses have worried that flexible working could lead to disengaged employees and reduced productivity. But thanks to meeting platforms integrating with the likes of Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Facebook for Workplace, working remotely is now just as effective as working in the office. Live video and audio meetings have the power to bring the human factor to collaboration between colleagues, customers and prospects so that employees can continue to build strong relationships regardless of whether they’re in the office, at a coffee shop, or at home. Moreover, the fact they can access all of their everyday communication tools seamlessly through one device allows for greater efficiency.

Relationship building
Video and audio meetings enable employees to work flexible hours in any time zone and still feel like they’re a valued part of the team, engaging with the culture that has been built, all while creating the types of relationships you would normally see daily in a physical office. As an employee who is working offsite, team members will begin to trust and rely on you because the regular conversation will help to build that personal connection.

The ability to connect face-to-face, or simply have animated conversations over audio, is instrumental to a successful flexible working programme, building relationships and enabling effective collaboration. It’s why businesses spend tens of thousands on travel each year. Now, with flexible working being supported by video meetings, they can reduce that spend but still foster productive relationships.

Collaborative culture
With the right technologies – and a change in mindset – organisations can develop an external focus and create a truly collaborative culture. Customers and partners will have a greater voice and influence more customer-centric products and services. Untold revenue opportunities exist for those who get it right.

The key to a successful flexible working policy is using the chosen technology solutions to help maintain productivity and communicate effectively when out of the office. This can be done by using collaboration technologies such as digital assistants, interactive whiteboards, and instant messaging to ensure that meetings are productive and meaningful, wherever the attendees might be in the world. The narrative that employees need to be in the office to do their job is outdated given the technology that is now at their disposal. The reality is, with the live meeting technologies that are now available, staff can be empowered to deliver high-quality work any time, any place. And when you consider how much time is lost owing to delayed public transport, it’s illogical not to encourage flexible working. As long as companies have the requisite technology that allows employees to do their job, they are at no disadvantage working from home.