Many of the staff based at the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV) don't actually have to be there to do their jobs effectively. Thanks to UNOV's Mobile Office project, they can access all their office facilities, at any time, from wherever they happen to be. It means they can stay productive when they're trapped at home by a snowstorm, for instance, or even if they've relocated to another part of the world to follow a spouse.
Using the system is voluntary, but over 600 of the staff have signed up for it. All IT applications, whether web-enabled or not, are made available to them on request and they can use them securely at any time from anywhere. The same goes for all their files; they can access the main office’s network drives just as if they were there in person, with the same rights to use data and create and modify documents.
To ensure safe access and the secure flow of data, the Mobile Office works between two firewalls, with one safeguarding against external attacks, and the other protecting the servers inside the network core. The internet connection is encrypted, with additional security features. Just knowing someone’s login name and password is not enough to get in. Instead, when accessing the system, members of staff are asked for a special code. In addition to their login name and a four-digit pin, they must then type in a small electronic key displaying a new and different code every 60 seconds – a precaution similar to that used by several on-line banking services.
Mobile Office is great for telecommuting, but the advantages don't stop there. It extends software access in small country offices where a complete set of computer programmes is not always available. It makes operations more resilient when people find their own mobility restricted (by heavy snowfall, for instance, or in the event of a pandemic). It also makes UNOV's work more accessible to member states and partners, improving transparency and speeding up processes and decision-making.
The ability to work from anywhere has brought with it a big increase in the efficiency of the office, and full exploitation of all the applications required for remote, offsite and distance working. Staff are openly appreciative; indeed, many of them have integrated it into their working patterns to such an extent that they feel they could no longer live without it.
For some, it has been the key to keeping their jobs when their circumstances took them away from Vienna. One, whose wife's job required her to relocate to Chile, now telecommutes from Santiago. Another works for three weeks in the month from London, and others are home-based for several days a week. With a good internet connection (depending on the applications they need to use), the system serves them all well.
The benefits can be summarized as: