Almost every employee with more than 26 weeks’ service has the right to request flexible working and in the last 10 years the number of people working from home has increased by a fifth to reach a record 1.5m, this is according to official figures by the TUC which reveals that nearly a quarter of a million (241,000) more people work from home than a decade ago.
With initiatives such as ‘Work From Home Week’ and Work Wise UK promoting the benefits of greater flexibility, it’s no surprise that young people joining the workforce see the ability to work from home as an expectation rather than a luxury.
But it’s not just young people who are demanding change. Across all aspects of modern work employees are increasingly looking for ways to work where they want, when they want and in a way that suits them. Today’s employees want to play an active role in the business they work for, yet are demanding greater choice over where they are located and how they share knowledge, ideas and experiences.
With so many companies becoming more dispersed and employees demanding greater flexibility, bringing together the workforce can be a challenge. And it’s one that is only exacerbated when different teams, departments and offices use different chat, conferencing, video and phone systems to communicate.
In 2017, technology developments, new work cultures and fresh approaches to doing business will drive greater acceptance for home working. With that in mind, here are four factors that are set to drive the trend to more flexible working approaches:
1. The rise of the App Generation
The ‘App Generation’ has never lived in a time without the internet and smartphones. As this generation of teenagers enters the workforce, they bring with them entirely new attitudes towards technology and an expectation for greater flexibility in the way they work. If they can already talk, share and collaborate on a mobile device, then why do they need to be tied to a desk in a set office location?
According to research from cloud communications provider Fuze, 79 per cent of teenagers aged 15 to 18 years would like to work from home. Half also say they don’t want to be tied to a nine-to-five job. As it stands, only 37 per cent of today’s office workers are able to work from home, despite many feeling that they would be more productive if allowed to work away from the office.
Technology is often talked about as the enabler for working from anywhere and we know from our personal lives that location isn’t a barrier to connecting, communicating and getting things done, but in the business world it’s not as straightforward. But for flexible working to be effective, aligning the communication technologies that workers use across the business is critical.
As the app generation starts work, employers will be challenged to deliver the workplace environments and technologies that meet their expectations of modern working
2. Employee demand will influence technology decisions
Two-thirds of UK office workers believe that the technology they use in the workplace is outdated and behind the tech their use in their personal lives. The pressure is on for IT teams to deliver tools and applications that emulate the seamless experience that we are used to outside of work.
A significant 90 per cent of UK workers say they could work effectively from any location as long as they were given the right technology to do so. For most organisations this goes beyond supplying the latest laptop or smartphone to providing a consistent portfolio of tools and applications that empower every employee.
Communication and collaboration form the crux of today’s business world, connecting employees to colleagues, customers and partners. This is where cloud delivery models can really come into their own. Through unified communications as a service, IT teams can bring together multiple voice, messaging and collaboration apps into a single platform and deliver this to any employee to access at any location, any time and from any device.
3. Cultural changes will relax IT policies
In 2017, both businesses and IT departments will loosen the reins when it comes to their working practices and attitudes towards tech. Increasingly, businesses are becoming more comfortable with employees working in a way that suits them, recognising this greater freedom can help both motivation and productivity.
Where companies have taken a strict approach to the technologies their employees can and cannot use, many recognise this simply isn’t working. Most employees are working around IT’s blocks and policies, choosing instead to use their own devices and install their own apps. Security risks aside, the big drawback is that the sheer variety and volume of applications (the average organisation has 12 different tools for conferencing and messaging alone) actually reduces the opportunities for collaboration. Employees are rarely connecting on the same platform, in the same way.
Rather than tightening their grip on IT and restricting flexible working practices, businesses will look for ways to combine personal and workplace technology in a way that meets employee expectations, but doesn’t relinquish control. Applications and technologies that bring a consumer-like experience to the workplace will be key to moving employees away from ‘shadow IT’.
4. Cloud communication will save time and drive collaboration
For today’s workers, being productive does not have to mean being tied to a desk. While flexible work arrangements aren’t a new concept, as collaboration technologies move to the cloud businesses should expect to see a significant rise in the number of employees demanding to work outside of the office environment. This switch to a more mobile and collaborative workforce will not only benefit employees, but provide numerous opportunities for IT teams.
As it stands, many IT teams are devoting significant amounts of their day-to-day activities managing multiple communications systems and appsfor video calling, voice conferencing and live chat- and dealing with user issues. As businesses increasingly move their critical applications to the cloud, using a single platform, this issue will start to disappear, freeing up IT departments to focus on building a collaborative workforce that is motivated and productive in every location.
Kris Wood, Vice President, EMEA at Fuze
Image Credit: Gpointstudio / Shutterstock