By the time you read this let’s hope Swine Flu will be receding into memory – in news terms it’s certainly diminishing and hopefully in health terms it’ll be doing so as well.

It serves as a reminder, though, that there will be times when people can’t get into work. This might be because of health issues as in this case, it might be because their child’s school has just closed because of another such health scare or it might be the annual panic when a bit of snow dares to fall in the UK. But there are going to be times when teleworking is essential to any office-based activity.

One possible answer is to ensure you have the right file sharing and collaboration systems in place. Microsoft offers Office Live WorkSpace for storing up to 5GB of files in the cloud which can be accessed and shared from any internet-connected computer. It’s a mistake, though, to assume this is available purely as a solution to a remote access problem.

Instead it can be an opportunity to see if you can work in a different way. Can you offer more flexible means of working to your employees? Is it possible that you might not need to spend a fortune in moving to a larger office to accommodate everyone if you allow for 20 per cent (say) of your colleagues working from home or in the field at any given time?

An Office Live WorkSpace helps makes this possible. Never assume it’s just a technical move, mind you. I applied for a freelance position recently and was told that I’d need to be working in the office most of the time because ‘home workers inevitably get treated a bit like second class citizens’. I backed out pretty quickly as you can imagine, and it had nothing to do with the technology. A flexible, mobile workforce is a very different animal from the one based in the office the whole time and anyone aiming to run their organisation in this way needs to understand this first.

It’s a serious opportunity nonetheless, and done right it’ll make you more profitable because the overhead goes down. Who’d have thought something so positive might come from an attempt to resolve a crisis?

This is a guest-post from Guy Clapperton, a freelance journalist who has specialised in the small business arena for over a decade.

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