Attitudes towards work-life balance have shifted decisively over the past few decades. With 15% of the UK workforce working from home in 2019, it’s become common for employees to balance their personal and professional lives in ways that just weren’t possible for the previous generation.

However, since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the various resulting states of lockdown restrictions across the country, nearly half of the UK’s 30 million employees have worked from home during the pandemic. Because of this, the importance of cloud technology in facilitating flexible working has become even more important.

Flexible working isn’t just about working from home. As much as it benefits the employee, flexible working also offers multiple advantages to the business itself. Working from anywhere, from any device, with access to the data they need at all times, flexible workers are far more efficient, whether they’re in the office, at home, or on the road. This is where cloud technology comes in.

Your office in the cloud

A cloud platform gives you access to a modern IT infrastructure, without an extensive setup process or the upfront costs that come with it. The lightweight nature of the cloud makes it cost-effective and highly flexible, with data and software accessible anywhere, not just from a specific machine with the right programs installed. Fewer software updates also mean fewer resources spent on supporting employees. In short, by becoming less reliant on in-house hardware and support, workers can spend less time, well, in-house.

‘Bring your own device’, or BYOD, is a popular concept that allows small teams to work independently or collaboratively as circumstances demand, from multiple locations, without worrying about a central pool of hardware. In some industries, the widespread use of cloud-based software as a service solutions, or SaaS, has led to companies forgoing the expense of a physical location altogether – instead relying on the ‘virtual office’ concept, which gives the business a postal address, but no actual office space.

Admittedly, setting employees loose to do their own thing does require a high level of trust and team cohesion. But for tight-knit, motivated teams, especially in small businesses and start-ups, this shouldn’t be a major issue. And in some respects, cloud services actually offer increased opportunities to keep track of what employees are up to. We don't want to come across all Big Brother here, but collaborative remote working often means a detailed record of who did what, when, and for how long.

Cloud security: a barrier to flexible working?

Security concerns are regularly cited as a block to cloud adoption, and flexible working in general. In a recent survey from Larato, 41% of teams pointed to technology integration issues as a barrier to flexible working, and it’s likely that security forms a significant chunk of these worries. But why?

In some ways, a decentralised workforce is more vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches. With online criminals increasingly targeting mobile devices, the BYOD model is certainly under threat. But are these risks inherent to flexible working, or any more severe than in a traditional office environment?

Cloud and SaaS providers are always introducing new security measures, like ways to prevent remote users from downloading or printing sensitive data. While the arms race with hackers is always ongoing, the acceptance of flexible working means that cloud platforms are designed with built-in security features for remote workers – such as virtual private networks.

Another way companies can ensure maximum security for remote workers is by researching the capabilities of their provider. What kind of infrastructure do they offer? Where are their data centres located and how are they secured? By answering questions like these, you should get a better idea of how well-guarded your data will be, wherever it’s accessed from.

Ultimately, before you can start working more flexibly on a cloud platform, you need to lay a bit of groundwork. Whether that means having an IT specialist in-house or doing the homework yourself, you’ll need to be confident in your ability to securely manage people and data. But once you find the right cloud provider and have your own expertise in place, you’ll quickly see the benefits stack up. Learn how easy it is to migrate to the cloud here.

The future of flexible working jobs

The Covid-19 pandemic has in many ways accelerated the inevitable trend towards flexible working. With no end of the virus in sight and the prospect of a second full lockdown on the horizon, it’s clear that most office workers will continue to work from home. The longer that this continues, these changes will become ever more entrenched in society as companies remove the unnecessary expense of hiring an office. Societal benefits such as time freed by not having to commute, quieter roads, and less pollution, could lead to a permanent shift in attitudes in how we run our society and a reluctance to return to normal working patterns.

At Fasthosts, our Cloud Servers give you and your team a highly scalable and secure environment to host your data and run business-critical applications. It’s the perfect infrastructure for any organisation that needs to be agile, innovative and flexible.