UK’s economy transforming the DNA of working culture?

Technology is, and has for sometime now, dominated people’s social and working lives, making access to friends’ photos or work emails a simple click or scroll away.

Concur – a travel management firm – has published a report entitled Virtual Instanity that focuses on how the UK’s working environment is being altered by the ‘on-the-go economy’.

The on-the-go economy is the intersection between the on-demand and sharing economies, and encompasses the social and economic changes that have been driven by rapid advances in technology and connectivity.

Uber’s meteoric rise is a good example of this intersection. Their drivers are in control and this is the desire of employees in other sectors, who now have this same ability.

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“The on-the-go economy is redefining the boundaries of how we do business,” said Scott Torrey, EVP and GM EMEA at Concur. “Employees are no longer tied to a nine-to-five day – they want to work on their own terms.”

Working culture has changed from traditional to constant. Employees have entered a 24-hour blurred line between work and leisure.

The report identifies this notion of time as one of the on-the-go economy’s key patterns. Employees are expected to manage matters in the moment, regardless of location. The need to maximise every moment and have constant access is now a fundamental part of working culture.

For many, however, this 24-hour access and expectance to be ‘always on’ has become controlling, with little opportunity to switch off and recharge our batteries.

Every year, about 400,000 people in the UK report work-related stress at a level they believe is making them ill. The constant state of required connectivity has been sited as a major factor.

Firms can use this technology, however, to free up people’s time for more productive tasks.

Alistair Kent, head of marketing and strategy at Concur, uses the example of photographing expenses that get directly uploaded to the cloud in order to save time and stress for the employee.

Productivity is the most stubborn challenge facing the business sector.

We are facing a seismic shift, and the on-the-go economy has created a new kind of productivity that is not reliant on physical presence, but can be accessed remotely from the home, or the tube, or in a coffee shop – the future work place?

But has this virtual assisted life increased productivity?

Kent said complete connectivity combined with employee satisfaction is leading to a more productive UK workforce, by using technology to save time and money.

This view goes against Michael Rendell, partner for consulting firm PwC’s global human capital business, who said in 2014 the “UK workforce is not more productive than it was, even though we have all this connectivity”.

The most important pattern created by the on-the-go economy is that portable connected devices have liberated workers, allowing them autonomy over their working lives by choosing to work on their mobile devices.

This will lead, as the report suggests, to a blossoming of entrepreneurship, a diversity of business, and a technological renaissance, because constant connectivity has meant that we can.

The on-the-go economy is an evolution of working culture, where the mobile will become the remote hub of our working lives. Businesses must adapt to survive.

The challenge for employers is to provide working environments and practices that maximise the productivity of employees’ efforts, all the while enabling staff to maintain a balance between the personal and professional spheres.

Employer’s duty of care to their employees is also an issue that arises from the on-the-go economy, and careful management by both the UK government (now that we will be leaving The European Working Time Directive) and individual businesses must be regulated for employees work rights.

>See also: How tech disrupters fuelled the sharing economy (and beyond) for generation bail-out

Steve Flatt, psychologist and founder of the Psychological Therapies Unit, agrees and states the future must be managed. “Recognising the need for balance within the on-the-go economy is key for our mental wellbeing,” he says, “but also for businesses and the wider economy.”

Today’s on-the-go economy has shifted the DNA of the UK’s working culture to a more malleable, efficient and individual force, with huge global communication access and diverse business benefits. This shift is necessary, inevitable even, in a world that’s smaller through constant connectivity.

The result? A combination of services in a single retail space, or the financial services industry pivoting towards self-service apps.

A technological race will be triggered for maximum efficiency in the era of the on-the-go economy.

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