We spoke to senior managers and employees from UK businesses to fully understand those benefits. We found that embracing smarter working can save companies 6.6 million hours and £1.6 billion per week. You can’t argue with numbers like that.
But we also found that less than half of Britain’s businesses have integrated digital into their strategy. That means the majority of businesses are missing out on those benefits. So can more businesses of all sizes make the move from analogue to digital ways of working to grow?
Firstly, give your employees the tools to work from wherever they are.
In practical terms, this means giving employees the digital tools they need, including laptops, smartphones or tablets, to work smarter. It doesn’t mean employees should be accessible 24/7; it means giving people the option to work in a way that suits them in order to drive maximum productivity. So for example, enabling parents to work from home around child care commitments or helping commuters to make the most of their journey into work, reducing extra time spent at their desks. Take inspiration from the Ministry of Justice’s move to create commuter hubs, which give staff a viable option halfway between commuting and working from home.
It might sound simple but it can drive efficiency, staff satisfaction and client service. In fact, we found over two thirds of senior managers in large businesses think breaking the nine to five work pattern has helped their company achieve greater business success. At the same time over two thirds of Britain’s business employees think technology has a positive impact on their productivity at work.
Secondly, consider investing in a web-based data storage service, which allows employees to simultaneously work on a document from wherever they are. As well as fuelling flexible working it encourages employee collaboration, making better use of expertise and resources.
Finally, true smarter working goes beyond making the physical changes. Employees need to feel that it’s part of the culture and actively encouraged. Back in 2012 we conducted the UK’s largest-ever flexible working pilot by asking the entire 2,500 strong workforce based at our Slough headquarters to work away from the office for the day.
The results didn’t just meet our expectations but exceeded them. The initiative transformed the way we work together, whether that’s in the office or remotely. All O2 offices are now set up for flexible and smarter working, and O2 employees are provided with the connectivity, applications and hardware to work from wherever they need to.
Creating a culture that enables smarter working was the biggest challenge we faced, and it took a bit of time, but as we’ve grown more confident working with our colleagues no matter where they happen to be based, we’ve found that we’re happier, more productive people, with the statistics to back it up.
So as we reflect on Work Wise Week, it’s time for more businesses to get wise to smarter working – so that employees, businesses and the economy can thrive.