Opinion

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Empowering the digital generation with flexible working

7 Mins

In an increasingly virtual world, businesses know that they need to adapt quickly to changing workforce trends. Otherwise they could risk losing out on the best talent. So what more can businesses do to ensure they provide the flexibility that today’s workers demand?

Catering to a new generation

Work is something you do, not somewhere you go. The emphasis therefore should be on businesses to provide the equipment and environment that will ensure the highest outcomes, resulting in greater productivity and a happier workforce for example.

So in a changing “always-on” and mobile working environment, it’s increasingly the case that firms must equip workers for time spent away from the office. Especially where it will free the employee to operate more efficiently from another location.

Take for instance; when weather and travel issues prevent access to the office, working from a customer’s site, or during downtime when travelling and between appointments. These scenarios comprehend the benefits that technology can open up, to ensure more value out of an employee’s working day.

Consider also the evolving characteristics of the workforce. A consumerisation of technology means that the modern employee is savvier than ever, and will often use cutting edge hardware, tools and online resources for personal use before they even enter a business context.

In a recent BlueJeans study, it was revealed that only one in seven employers is good at providing communications tools at work that mirror what the employee uses at home. If they don’t want to risk alienating the next generation of tech-savvy workers, business leaders need to start considering the upgrades they can introduce.

Flexible working ensures a productive work-life balance, with the potential to influence positive cultural change across the whole business. Fail to get it right, and firms may find themselves losing out to the competition.

Facing the change

Research from Timewise recently highlighted that just 8.7 per cent of UK job vacancies offer some degree of flexibility – spurring a national initiative to fix the flexible jobs market. Businesses are increasingly supporting this new approach to working culture, so why exactly does this reluctance still exist?

It could be argued that this is down to a common perception that the strongest rapports are built through face-to-face conversations. Socially, only ten per cent of an interaction is actually spoken, 30 per cent is tone, whilst 60 per cent of all human communication is from the body language we put forward.

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This makes the presence of face-to-face communications a vital approach to doing business. People tend to buy from other people. After all, if you couldn’t see a salesperson’s face, could you really trust what they are saying?

This sentiment can be echoed at different levels of a business, as some stakeholders remain reluctant to fully embrace a remote working model that takes the worker a step further away. To ensure seamless adoption, this audience will need to be persuaded that technology can open new doors so that the way workers communicate with their colleagues, customers and prospects isn’t hindered when operating remotely.

Camera, action

What technologies are currently available to support businesses placing a focus on flexible working? Above all, video-conferencing and remote collaboration tools can help workers keep in touch and remain involved with the business, as if they are sat in the same building.

Live video meetings can occur at any time of day, regardless of location, and at minimal cost. And in most cases businesses won’t even need to purchase new equipment to benefit from the latest video technology. An employee is then able to be cast anywhere around the globe, whether attending a meeting in Australia or a few streets away from home.

Such developments in video collaboration have enabled remote workers to be able to engage and connect “face to face”, whether for training, troubleshooting customer issues, or product collaboration.

The opportunities are rife, and 72 per cent of employees feel that live video is set to play a useful role in the next two years. In the same study, it was found that 36 per cent want to see live video used more over other methods such email (27 per cent), instant messaging (26 per cent) and phone calls (24 per cent) as they believe it will create stronger relationships and even reduce the volume of daily emails.

This is understandable, as 85 per cent of workers said they use video communications as part of their personal lives. So, if the employer really wants to transform the way its workforce operates and communicates, video should be a priority route – yet 72 per cent of employers don’t currently encourage its use in a work context. A fresh approach is clearly required, to make a real difference.

Technologies are evolving at a rapid speed meaning that the remote workforce is better equipped than ever to ensure they get results, irrespective of where their desk is located. In a digital era employees can be just as productive both in and outside the office, making it vital for businesses to assess their technology offerings to ensure that they are primed for flexible working success.

So, have you started taking advantage of the collaboration tools available? Will you be offering more flexible working initiatives? And, do you feel you are in a place to ensure flexible working success?

James Campanini, VP EMEA at Blue Jeans

These are the top ten UK employers for work-life balance, as ranked by employees.

Image: Shutterstock

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