Date: 30/05/2012

Is cloud computing changing our work culture?

By Guido Marchetti, Office 365 Specialist for O2 Telefonica, MJ Flood Technology

Cloud computing is becoming more than just a buzz word and a talking point over that first cup of coffee in the morning. It is quickly becoming an accepted standard for IT infrastructure.

All of the business benefits of availability, accessibility and reliability are key elements driving the adoption of cloud services such as Office 365. But within the concept of accessibility, there is an opportunity to boost productivity and allow employees work from anywhere.

There’s nothing new here, you might say. But the pervasive nature and ease of use of cloud applications coupled with the explosion in smart devices are for the first time, really challenging the traditional definition of what constitutes the timespan of a normal working day. Could services such as Office 365 even help to strike that elusive work-life balance without compromising on either?

Very few industries would say that they can survive on the traditional 40 hour week. Whether we like it or not, this culture has become a thing of the past and more and more companies are expecting their employees, clients and suppliers to be available at hours outside 8.30am to 5.30pm.

The explosion of mobile smart devices means we all now have email in our pockets at a minimum, but with the right cloud services and the end devices, flexible working can be easily introduced into your company.

So using the Office 365 service let’s look at what can be placed in the cloud and what that means to the end-user using this flexible model:

  • Email
    With email in the cloud and messages being delivered to all my devices that are connected to the system, we have email always on the move without the complexity of VPN or third party apps to secure communications.
  • SharePoint
    We can now share documents with colleagues on a centralised web space, which will manage the copies and ensure we always have the most up to date version on all devices, editable even on an iPad with a clever web apps tool.
  • Lync
    A clever, personal communications tool that gives us presence, when we sign in and when others are available/busy and so on. It represents a way to communicate via instant message or voice/video call, and the ability to have a webinar with colleagues and clients.

With information stored in the cloud and the ability to access this data via smart phone, tablet device or laptop, we can now effectively allow our employees to “work from wherever” a phrase that was coined and used as an initiative last week by Microsoft to encourage location-independent working.

This flexibility with technology, however, now challenges employers to consider the question of trust: do they trust their workforce enough to allow them to work remotely using these tools and not insist that they are present and accounted for as part of a “roll call” every morning?

The mainstream introduction of these communication tools at an affordable price point, is allowing small business to deploy technologies, previously only enjoyed by large global companies such as Microsoft, Google or Facebook.

Now every employee can benefit from the tools to work efficiently, while having the flexibility to catch the kids’ school play in the knowledge of being able to log on later that night at a time which supports work/life balance.

This is a culture that is growing, driven by technology but also driven by employees themselves. Work/life balance has become increasingly important for staff and offering this option provides greater career satisfaction. As the old adage goes: a happy work force is a more productive workforce.


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