New legislation that has come into force this week could see an extra four and a half million parents eligible to ask for flexible working, in a move that will have serious implications for the IT managers tasked with supporting such practices, experts have warned.
Only around 12 per cent of the population is currently set up to work remotely, according to research launched at last year's Work Wise Week, pointing to a number of barriers that still exist for many companies.
However, reductions in travel costs, overheads and lost time, and increases in productivity when staff are given a home-working option, should make it an attractive proposition for both organisations and their employees.
"It does not have to cost the earth either," said Andrew Millard, director of e-commerce at Citrix Online.
"With technologies now in place to help companies mobilise a remote workforce quickly and easily, without the need for expensive on-premise infrastructure costs, this latest announcement gives businesses an opportunity to drive efficiencies into their operation, while increasing staff morale, retention and productivity levels."
Mike Ballentine, business development manager at global communications firm Aastra, believes that the near ubiquity of broadband should make it a relatively straightforward process to set up home workers with a VoIP-enabled system.
"Most modern systems provide IP capabilities when and how you want them, but if you have a very old system you may need to look for an upgrade," he said.
"It is an education exercise: we have to tell people it is easy to implement and manage."
Such modern IP telephony systems can enable calls to be routed to home workers while keeping the same office numbers, and allow the calls to be logged and recorded centrally by the PBX so that they do not add to the management burden for IT.
However, the best way to start any flexible working initiative is to trial the technology with a handful of users, in order to allay management fears and ensure that the technology works properly, Ballentine advised.
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