Chris Costello, Director of technology hub Sync, discusses why employers should be taking a more flexible approach to running their businesses, and how tech can help them.
Nine-to-five working is already an outdated idea for many, and thousands of workplaces are now taking a more fluid approach.
Over the next decade, we expect to see businesses take a more flexible approach to the way a business is run. This is due to increasing demands for flexibility by younger generations, lower tech costs and societal pressures to reduce traffic and car use, as well as ensuring a better work-life balance for the workforce.
The main benefit of implementing a flexible working policy into the workplace is that it can increase overall productivity.
There are two types of flexible working a business can consider. One is working from home and the other is ‘flexitime’, which is where workers are able to set their own working hours.
While some business owners may feel that working from home gives the opportunity for workers to do less work, the communal office environment can be full of distractions. Working in an environment that suits can ensure smarter working and result in more being achieved.
To also comfort business owners, there has been plenty of research which supports the idea that flexible working can result in increased efficiency. For example, a study by Vodafone found that 54 percent of employees said that working flexibly makes them more productive. Additionally, three in four workers even said that this boosted their job satisfaction.
As well as increasing the overall work rate, it has also been suggested that workers who work to times which suit them are willing to put in extra or longer hours than those who work the standard 9 to 5 hours.
While there are plenty of benefits for established businesses who adapt their business model to incorporate flexible working, early-stage businesses should also take notice.
Advancements in tech, such as the growth of more powerful mobile devices and tablets, means it’s now easier than ever for individuals to start their own business, including running a business entirely from home.
With more than 600,000 startups being founded in the UK each year, the costs of permanent office space can be one the biggest overheads for business owners and founders.
However, tech means both business founders, and workers, can easily set up shop from anywhere which has a decent WIFI. This can only flourish further with the expected introduction of 5G technology this year.
5G promises an average download of 10GB a second, which is around 1,000 times faster than what 5G currently delivers. It will also have a response time of just 1 millisecond. In comparison, 4G has a response time of between 15 and 60 milliseconds, and 3G around 120 milliseconds.
5G could dramatically improve the communication effectiveness of all businesses. As well as workers being able to work seamlessly from home, faster online speeds will mean they can respond as instantly as if they are physically in an office all together.
While working from home does have its advantages for startups, there is sometimes the need to get into a business environment, for example for meetings with clients.
Instead of startups having to fork out for a permanent office space to create a professional setting for meetings, they can utilise co-working spaces. The other benefit of a co-working space includes meeting like-minded people and businesses! Who knows, it could lead to further opportunities such as project partnerships.
The gig economy
With self-employment on the increase in the UK, and the rise of the gig economy showing no signs of slowing down, businesses are starting to embrace the UK’s freelancers. According to the IPSE, 4.8 million people are self-employed in the UK, and freelancers contributed to £119 billion to the economy in 2016.
Many businesses now only hire individuals to fill short-term skills gaps, instead of recruiting staff on a full time basis. As well as technology providing the resources for businesses to find relevant freelancers for the job, it also means geographical location is no longer a limit. The best match for a role could live anywhere on the planet, but it’s the skills match rather than location that matters. Technology is the enabler for this.
Advancements in workplace tech
Last of all, advancements in workplace technology has allowed businesses to be connected all around the world. No matter where a business’ staff are located, there can be a global flow of ideas and staff can work in an environment that’s ‘always connected’ and ‘instantly reachable’.
While we’ve already seen huge leaps in workplace technology over the last decade, the next 10 years are set to transform even further.
How we currently see the ‘workplace’ will look a lot different in 10 years time. We predict that the idea of a physical workplace will eventually completely vanish, with steps already being made towards virtual meeting spaces.
Before physical offices are made redundant though, we expect to see a number of major changes in the architecture industry. For example, technology such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) means designers will be able to visualise new building projects in incredible real-life detail, with businesses and its employees viewing and touring the new office before it is even built.
One day, people will look back and laugh at us all traipsing into an office block for the 9 to 5 life. Isn’t it time that businesses get on board now and ready themselves for what their workers really want?