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Working in a winter wonderland
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Working in a winter wonderland 

The winter season brings with it snowstorms, freezing rain, and sub-zero temperatures. These conditions can make driving or commuting to work a harrowing experience for employees, often preventing them from coming into the office to work. This can have a severe effect on productivity in the workplace environment, especially if the employees are not doing any work while at home.

But the rise of Bring Your Own Device and mobile access to work-related material ensures that, even if they’re not sitting at their desks in a physical office setting, employees can still be productive. Mobile technology ensures that neither snow nor sleet nor gloom of night stays these individuals from the swift completion of their appointed tasks.

According to Citrix’s 2013 Mobility in Business Report, 71 per cent of enterprises now consider their mobile strategy to be vital to the success of their business. What was once considered to be a “nice to have” perk is quickly becoming a necessity.

“It’s forcing organizations to look at how they embrace mobility as a way of enabling people to work differently when they can’t come to work, or when it’s difficult to come to work, or even during the holiday season, where they can still be productive while working from home or alternative locations,” explains Michael Murphy, Vice President and country manager for Citrix Canada.

Heavy weather doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire operations of a business should be shut down for the day. Mobility allows everyone from executives to regular employees to communicate and continue working, ensuring that productivity doesn’t miss a beat. Companies in Calgary, which was recently hit by a massive snowstorm, still managed to get their jobs done, despite what was going on outside.

“Calgary was triumphant after three challenges over the past couple of years, from flooding to extreme snow, to downtown fires,” says Murphy. “This affected the ability to work in traditional offices. Even the City of Calgary had to relocate to an (alternative) location. I think that business continues and workers need to find alternative ways to continue to be productive, regardless of the weather.”

For employees the ability to work mobile involves creating a good work-life balance. This enables them to be productive while taking care of the many facets of their personal lives.

“It helps their work-life balance and a lengthy commute. If someone doesn’t have to commute two to three hours per day, that’s two or three hours that they can be focused on work, which benefits the employer,” Murphy says. “Or they can re-inject that time benefit back into their personal life. There’s a health and wellness part to it, in addition to the greening of the environment for people avoiding a lengthy commute.”

Going mobile has benefits for employers as well. Not only does it allow them to stay up-to-date on their own work and the management of their business, it also provides them with cost savings over time.

“There is the reduction in operating expenses,” says Murphy. “They (also) don’t need the same real estate footprint or investment in owning technology because BYOD, work shifting and moving to cloud-based access to applications and data reduce the actual costs to an employer. If you’re the CFO of an organization, work shifting, virtualization, BYOD and mobile workspaces help the bottom line. (Additionally), if there are health and wellness benefits to the employee, it (also) reduces the cost to the employer to provide some of those benefits.”

Working from home may relieve some stress from employees, but the key to ensuring it functions is if the employees are actually maintaining satisfactory levels of productivity. This is easier to monitor in a traditional workplace environment than it is if the employees are not present. Murphy believes that if this is to work, employees need to adopt the same habits they rely on in the office if they are working from home or elsewhere.

“I think they have to have a routine in their home offices,” he says. “They need to treat that home office and the tasks they do during the day as if it were a corporate (environment) or a traditional office that they would go to. They need to get up at the same time every day, get ready for ‘going to the office,’ and that routine needs to be consistent.”

Although most people are creatures of habit and like to take to routines, some homebound workers tend to get a little too comfortable in their surroundings.

“I think where that routine falls apart is when people roll out of bed whenever, make their way down to their home office in their pajamas, and never get into that routine as if they were going to the office,” says Murphy. “The office in their home needs to be specific location with windows and a door that can be closed so they’re not disrupted by what’s going on in the household during the day.”

But just like working in a real office, employees do need to take a break and disconnect from what they’re doing once in a while, something Murphy believes is vital to their success as home-based workers.

“They need to be able to disconnect themselves to take a proper lunch break, a proper coffee break and go do something that disconnects them from the office,” he says. “Similarly, when it’s time to close up shop at the end of the night, that’s why the door is important. Close the door, leave the technology in the office, go spend time with the family, and have a proper dinner. If they feel that they need to return to the home office space, they can certainly do that later on.”

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