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Flexible and agile working: what to consider?

James Field, customer strategy director at Smartdesc, suggests simple steps charity leaders can take to implement flexible and agile working.

The modern workplace doesn’t necessarily include a dedicated desk for every staff member. Individuals starting work today expect systems to be available anytime, anywhere, on any device. In fact, flexible working isn’t even a “nice to have”, it’s a legal right.

Technology has become a fantastic enabler for flexible working in recent years. The major players in the market now have very mature platforms, and the best part is that all of them offer brilliant discounts – and in some cases complete donations – to charities.

You don’t have to put all your systems in the cloud straight away. A basic Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium subscription will give your staff the facilities they need to do almost all their work from anywhere. They can install the latest version of Microsoft Office on any device they like, up to five devices per person. Those Microsoft licensing renewal nightmares involving complex, manual audits, are a thing of the past.

Do you manage volunteers, all of whom are using personal email addresses, causing a GDPR headache? You can issue them a corporate email address that you can control securely, totally free via the Office 365 E1 subscription.

All of these include securely hosting your email, shared files, and a platform for voice/collaboration/instant message/video conferencing, in Microsoft Teams.

A note of caution: it is wonderfully easy to sign up to cloud services like Office 365 or Google Docs, but what’s not so great is the default security controls. Your data can end up everywhere, very quickly. So, make sure you get the cybersecurity design in place before launching. This includes ensuring Two Factor Authentication (2FA) is turned on (tip: you can make staff’s lives easier by excluding 2FA when they are in your main office, as it is a trusted location). It also includes making sure encryption is enforced on computers (the simplest solution being BitLocker, free with Windows10 Pro) and on mobiles via 6-digit pins.

Click here to read more about cybersecurity

It’s also vital to reinforce the use of these tools through policy and training. Update your remote working policy, check your IT acceptable usage policy, refresh your bring your own device policy. We can give you templates if you don’t have these now.

Another easy way to move to agile, flexible working is to simply replace your desktop PCs with laptops and docking stations as each desktop comes of age. Staff don’t have to take these home – laptops can live in a locker or even just on the desk if the room is secure – nor do staff have to hot-desk from day one, but the simple act of gradually moving away from fixed desktops to a laptop, screen and dock starts to build that flexibility inform the ground up; suddenly anyone can sit on any desk with their laptop and dock in via a single cable.

Take small steps: a basic Microsoft Teams setup and a SharePoint site for remote files can be set up in a day or two for very little money. See how it goes, then expand from there.

Most importantly of all, communicate effectively with staff.

The organisational benefits of flexible working are well documented: improved wellbeing, increased productivity, employee retention and reduced property costs to name a few. Smartdesc is assisting many non-profit and charity organisations to embrace this change using low-cost technology and sharing the knowledge of experienced change managers.

ACEVO members can book complimentary time with a member of the Smartdesc team to discuss their agile working plan.  Click here to find out more or email Smartdesc is hosting a breakfast seminar on 28 April about ‘The Agile Office’ – for more information and to book your place please email

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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