23/07/2013 12:45 BST | Updated 22/09/2013 06:12 BST

Keep Cool and Carry On


In the UK we love talking about the weather - any kind of weather - but this month has really given us something to talk about as temperatures soared to 32 degrees. Quite exceptional for this part of the world. A lucky few have been basking on the beaches of Blackpool, Bournemouth and Bognor but for the rest of us life has been tough. Five-hour M25 queues and massive rail disruptions have caused misery and mayhem. I wonder how much business we have collectively lost as a result of this hot and stuffy inertia?

A group of MPs have tabled a Parliamentary Early Day Motion urging that employees be given the day off when temperatures hit 30ºC indoors but this just isn't realistic and in a world where the technology now exists to keep employees connected and collaborative from almost anywhere, is totally unnecessary.

It's pretty rare for UK businesses to have to worry about the impact of such warm weather. A bigger issue is the long holiday season that can significantly impact day-to-day business continuity. A recent YouGov survey confirmed that as many as one in four UK SMBs suffer a drop in productivity during the summer months with firms struggling to cover the holidays of key staff. This is particularly damaging for smaller businesses that typically have fewer back-up resources.

To avoid disruption to day-to-day operations and ensure workers don't have to endure further travel misery on sweltering trains and packed motorways, there is a compelling argument for equipping them with remote access and web conferencing technologies that will help them remain productive even if they cannot get into work. In this respect, it's as much a question of caring for your staff as it is for your business.

Using today's high definition conferencing tools staff don't need to miss important meetings just because they are not in the office. Similarly, they don't need to be at their desks to securely access and action important documents on the company network. Businesses can scale up or down - fast - using freelancers or contractors in the holidays by getting them connected remotely.

Other simple yet effective ways to keep the business running smoothly include the use of phone redirects and remote access software. If there is any risk that clients or customers are likely to be affected, letting them know as early as possible and keeping channels of communication open will reduce the chance that clients will be negatively impacted.

Few people welcome a call from work when they're on annual leave but in the event this is unavoidable, technology can be used to minimise the disruption this causes. As Quocirca industry analyst Clive Longbottom explains: "Video-conferencing, online meetings, web application-sharing and other tools can enable a holidaying employee to resolve any problems quickly and effectively early on and return to their break, benefitting them and their employer."

Until relatively recently, this flexible, 'work anywhere, with anyone' environment was simply unimaginable. Today however, the combination of modern technologies such as web-conferencing tools in combination with flexible work strategies can not only reduce the damage done by these seasonal drops in productivity but also pave the way for the introduction of policies that enable more flexible workstyles.

Crucially, this can not only help to reduce employee stress and discomfort, but will also deliver against the needs of the business.