The evolving workplace and benefits of flexible working

Workplaces across the world are evolving. Not quite at the same rate as technology, but still… fairly rapidly.

Why is this? Well, advances in remote working technology mean that the current workforce is more inclined to work flexibly — and this is now often a requirement of not just the millennial generation, but others as well.

A survey from Lenovo supports this. It found that more than three quarters (76%) of those that have no commute by working from home are overall satisfied with their job and a third (37%) of those surveyed admit to choosing their current role based on its close proximity to their home.

The report revealed how the changing nature of the modern workplace benefits both workers and employers, with one in ten workers most productive outside of the typical 7am to 6pm working hours.

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A remote world

Cebr calculates that 15.2 million people — or 57% of UK workers — are in roles that are sufficiently non-physical as to be eligible for remote working. If those workers were to spend the time they commute working, Cebr estimates there would be a £20bn boost to the UK economy, highlighting how valuable that time is.

One of the largest drivers of the changes in how and where we work has been technology — think the cloud or video conferencing.

Two in five (38%) workers who work remotely more often now than five years ago cite improvements in communication technology as one of the reasons behind this. And beyond this, rather than fearing technology and automation, 41% of respondents stated that tech will help them advance their careers.

Preben Fjeld, general manager UK & Ireland, Lenovo, said: “There’s a major shift happening in the traditional workplace, perhaps bigger than ever before, and it’s time to take another look at the nine-to-five. Employees want to work in conditions that are right for them and technology is a huge part of that. Change is being driven by younger generations, but if deployed properly, the benefits of flexible working can be felt by everybody.”

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The impact on businesses

No flexible working option will serve as a detriment to any business.

Indeed, business leaders indicate that flexible working arrangements can be key to acquiring talent and boosting morale, as long as remote-based working arrangements are managed properly.

Whilst the report suggests a shift towards more remote working is inevitable and positive, it also warns against assuming staff can seamlessly adapt and learn how to manage people remotely.

‘Training programmes are required for flexible management approaches, ensuring the true potential of remote working is fully realised and that technology is properly harnessed,’ said the report.

The modern manager

Managing people from afar is completely different to managing face-to-face, raising significant concerns over the success of flexible working unless new principles are adopted.

Given the technical requirements needed for effective remote working, it is unsurprising that 18% said they would like to see workplace IT equipment updated.

According to the report: ‘Workers expect conference calls and virtual meetings to become more common over the coming five years, with face-to-face meetings being the only form of business interaction that respondents expect to become less frequent.’

Nina Skero, head of Macroeconomics, Cebr, said: “Not only can flexible working boost the economy, businesses really must harness it to help attract and retain talent. Our research with Lenovo shows how demoralising long commutes to and from the office can be. With more advanced technology now at our fingertips, we must seek smarter solutions. It’s crucial for businesses to move to introduce these practices, for their own benefit, but also to benefit the economy.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...