Let's get flexible

Robert Ainger, director of corporate marketing at Orange, breathes life into the much discussed topic of mobile and flexible workingFlexible working is probably one of the most over-used and least understood phrases in business. It’s right up there with blue sky thinking and synergy. Yet, it is a topic that just won’t go away and one that is becoming increasingly relevant as organisations continue to change at an unprecedented rate and deal with an ever more challenging economic climate.
    
There has been a strong push to place flexible working higher up on the national agenda and it could be argued that it’s especially relevant to the public sector, as the area that’s being pushed to lead the government agenda by example with its own employees, whilst cutting costs and delivering services across more diverse platforms to its citizens.
    
If we want to develop the technology that will make flexible working possible, we need to understand what’s driving it. How are people going to be working in 5–10 years' time? What are the challenges for IT communications and the way information is managed and communicated within organisations?
    
What can be said with some degree of certainty is that previous models of work are being eroded, or even dismantled. The clock is increasingly an unreliable metaphor for work. In its place a range of new metaphors is emerging; metaphors about complexity, about place and distance, about social networks and social purpose.
    
For several years Orange has been the leading partner in the Orange Future Enterprise Coalition (OFEc). Working with the Henley Centre, we’ve been exploring the future of work to help organisations prepare and plan for the best possible outcomes. That means staying productive and efficient; getting closer to customers; and retaining high-calibre, motivated people. Flexible working can help employers do all of this.

The challenges of flexible working
Our research points to two main levers that are impacting the way we will do business, which are flexibility and control. We believe that balancing the two will be a major challenge in the future. How do you give your employees the flexibility to respond to new challenges, and to work in the way that makes them most productive – but still keep control of day-to-day operations and performance?
    
There are a number of core challenges employers are likely to face as they progress towards incorporating more flexible working arrangements for their employees. These challenges cover both classic business issues, such as cost efficiency, and the so-called softer issues, such as employee wellbeing and values.

What does the future hold?
Looking to the future, the landscape of flexible working will be significantly influenced by a range of important factors, which are already at play. Technology is notable in this, but social trends are also highly influential; from the appeal of flexible working arrangements themselves, through to the increasing ubiquity of technology as a social platform, the development of legislation and concerns about the environment.
    
Flexibility has become an intrinsic part of organisational life – it’s no longer just about ensuring staff are happy – but about ensuring future profitability. Organisations need to consider how to become truly flexible; in responding quickly, providing a progressive working environment for their staff and, ultimately, in becoming more successful.
    
At Orange this means an organisation where you have some choice of where and when you work, where you can collaborate and communicate freely and give great service to customers from wherever they happen to be. To coin a phrase, it’s about removing boundaries to become an ‘open office’, where work becomes what people do and what they achieve, not just where they go.

This content is extracted from the ‘Beyond Boundaries’ report, published by the Orange Future Enterprise Coalition. Case study: Telford & Wrekin Council
Telford & Wrekin Council was established in 1998 and employs around 5,500 people. The council is a unitary service, responsible for all local government services in the area including education, social services and libraries.
   
The council needed a way to take its services to people who can’t just hop in a car or catch the local bus to the council office. It worked with Orange to come up with a solution that allowed the council to go directly to the community whilst still being able to access its systems and files on the move.
   
700 of the council’s field workers were issued with Orange smartphones and datacards, allowing them to take social care services directly to people in the community. This number will continue to expand as more services adopt mobile working. Not only that, but the council can be much happier about the safety of its field workers, who can all be contacted at anytime via their smartphones.
   
“We want to run an efficient council that provides a good service to its tenants. By choosing Orange, we have one communications partner that understands our business needs. Being able to automate our services and serve those who are not able to travel to see us is important. The solutions we have from Orange are helping us meet our business objectives whilst also reducing our carbon footprint,” said Tom Greatorex Interim Head of Information & Communication Technology, Telford & Wrekin Council.

For more information
Visit www.orange.co.uk/business or www.orangecoalition.com