The kind of office most of us are familiar with is a building with four walls and a roof that we probably drive to 40 or so hours each week, Monday through Friday. Today, many companies still maintain traditional offices, but the decision makers are also discovering that to compete in the current economy, employees must be able to do their jobs anywhere, anytime.
Microsoft recently commissioned a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs among more than 4,500 information workers in 15 U.S. markets to better understand opinions and attitudes related to mobile and internal business technologies and capabilities. The survey results further underscore the growing requirement for mobile work solutions – more than half of respondents (57%) report that their company has a formal telework policy and more than three quarters of information workers (77%) say their company provides access to technology support for working remotely.
Working without walls – what it is, and isn’t
At Microsoft, we like to describe remote working as “working without walls,” because it’s becoming much more than simply handing employees laptops and giving them the ability to check e-mail outside the office . . . though that’s a start. Rather, today’s business climate demands that employees be able to work just as effectively inside the office as they can outside the office. This means being able to use laptops as well as handheld devices to securely access vital business information, collaborate with colleagues (even face-to-face), make critical business decisions, and more.
Tools that can help
A range of technology tools exists to help businesses effectively mobilize employees. Here are a few that are particularly helpful for working without walls.
Cloud-based software: One of the primary benefits the cloud has delivered to businesses of all sizes is access to software that formerly only existed on local servers and required employees to be in the office to use the applications. Now, thanks to the cloud, workers can use many of the programs they formerly only had access to in the office wherever they have a secure Internet connection.
Microsoft recently launched the beta version of Office 365 — an all-in-one solution that combines SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, and Office in an up-to-date cloud service. Ideal for letting employees remain productive in and out of the office, Office 365 makes things like videoconferencing, document and desktop sharing easy for mobile workers, as well as tasks like e-mail, chat, calendaring and document creation.
Smartphones: Sometimes, when working without walls, it’s just not efficient to conduct work from a laptop. For instance, you might be at a business lunch and can’t lug your laptop to the table, or it could already be stowed in the overhead compartment of an airplane when you realize you need to send off a quick e-mail before your plane departs.
In these instances, having a smartphone can make all the difference. A phone like Windows Phone 7, designed specifically for the business user, includes applications that make it possible to do virtually everything you already do on a desktop PC or laptop. It also includes numerous data protection features that help safeguard your business information should your phone be lost or stolen. What’s more, Office 365 will be available on Windows Phone 7, ensuring that users get the maximum productivity benefits this software provides.
Security enhanced operating systems: In those instances when using a laptop makes more sense than working from a smartphone, it’s vital that your computer’s operating system is security enhanced.
Windows 7, Microsoft’s newest operating system, is its most secure operating system to date and provides data encryption features through BitLocker — for hard drives, as well as BitLocker to Go — for removable disk drives. Another feature included in the Enterprise version of Windows 7 that’s particularly beneficial to mobile workers is DirectAccess, which gives users security enhanced and easy access to corporate networks without a VPN.
Collaboration, connection and security are business essentials inside, and outside the four walls of your office. Fortunately, today’s technology tools can easily help you empower employees to work productively from any location and will likely make your business leaner and more efficient as a result.