The need for flexibility in the workplace in order for businesses to thrive

UK employees want to choose where they work so they can be more productive, have a better work life balance and avoid the commute.

Productivity and teamwork are both significantly improved when employees can have flexibility with their work, a global survey of on global anywhere working trends by Polycom finds.

‘We predicted that 2016 would be the ‘year of video’, and it’s satisfying to know that people are really seeing the benefits of working this way,’ says Jim Kruger, CMO of Polycom.

‘The survey results also tell us that businesses need to offer video collaboration tools to enable the human contact that people crave. Organisations that are able to offer flexible working practices and the right collaboration tools will be the winners in recruiting and retaining top talent.’

Flexible working culture

The survey reveals the main benefits and challenges for employers and employees when it comes to adopting a flexible working culture. While results vary by country, there are three key trends that remain constant across the board.

The vast majority of respondents (98 per cent) agree that an anywhere working approach boosts productivity, as people can choose to work where they are most efficient. Nearly all (92 per cent) of respondents also agree that video collaboration technology improves teamwork.

Meeting colleagues via video helps keep the human interaction element that can sometimes lack when working remotely, enabling employees to develop better relationships. The survey also reveals that 62 per cent of the global working population is working flexibly – more than ever before.

Transformation

Digital transformation is partly responsible, as it drives organisations to explore new ways of working at a faster pace. Firms are racing to innovate, develop a better working culture, and retain the best talent to remain competitive.

The UK is one of the countries that has seen more people embrace a flexible working approach. According to the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, in May 2012 only 20 per cent of UK workers worked from home regularly, and only 14 per cent benefited from remote working.

Polycom’s survey shows there has been significant transformation in working habits since then; at the end of 2016, 64 per cent of UK workers were working flexibly on a regular basis. Another important development is the shift in attitudes towards flexible working: in 2012, two thirds of firms offered flexible working benefits to parents only.

Now, 80 per cent of companies in the UK offer flexible working benefits to all employees, according to Polycom’s survey. It’s clear that British workers are increasingly focused on getting a good work-life balance, with 75 per cent of those surveyed highlighting a key benefit of anywhere working was getting their work-life balance under control.

Commuting is also a big source of stress that UK employees would rather avoid: 30 per cent of those surveyed list ‘not commuting’ as the number one benefit of working flexibly.

‘There is a stigma that remote workers are disconnected from the rest of the team, yet this study proves that they are more sociable and proactively reach out to develop strong relationships. The new technology tools that enable communication and collaboration are actually motivating workers to pick up the phone, seek face time and create lasting bonds. This is the upside of remote work we rarely talk about,’ Jeanne Meister, partner, Future Workplace.

Two thirds (66 per cent) of millennials are worried that they aren’t perceived as hard-working when they are not in the office. This is a big concern globally, shared by 62 per cent of all respondents.

For organisations to keep up with the fast-pace of digital transformation, there needs to be a shift in attitude, and a new approach to how people work and collaborate.

By measuring performance based on outputs, and not hours worked, employees are reassured that management knows presenteeism does not equal good work ethic. Underlying this shift in work culture is technology. The right collaboration technology needs to be in place to enable teams to collaborate, and employees to have the same access to resources as if they were in the office.

Further reading on Workplace flexibility

Related Topics

Flexible Working

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