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Flexible Working: myth or reality?

With the decrease in cost and rise in popularity of mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets, comes a question: if we can update our Facebook status anywhere in the world, why do we still have to go to the office to work?

To the new Generation Y employees, who have been brought up using gadgets and mobile devices, the idea of working at a particular computer at a specific desk seems unfathomable. They want to have the freedom to choose where they work and carry on the communication on the move rather than be tied down to one location – and they have a point.

Then there’s the issue of travel. Long distance travel to attend meetings is expensive, and more importantly, time consuming. How can a company respond effectively to its customers, marketplace and competitors if its schedules are dictated by the airlines? And at a time when we are all encouraged to do our bit for the environment, how can corporations justify the huge carbon footprints that long haul travel produces?

The answer to all these challenges is flexible working. It’s about transforming the relationship that people have with their work, so that work becomes the activity they undertake, not the place they do it. Flexible working creates new ways for businesses to be competitive, and many ways for businesses to benefit. For example:

Cost savings: If people can collaborate from anywhere, travel budgets can be cut. If people increasingly work from home or client sites, the company can scale back the office space it needs.

Productivity: Flexible working means that employees can make better use of “dead time” – that time when they’re on a train or at the airport or between meetings. Flexible working also gives people the opportunity to work when they are at their happiest – which is often their most productive time, too. Why force workers into a 9-5 routine if they actually perform better early in the morning or late at night?

Work/Life Balance: People strive for a good balance between their work and family lives, and flexible working can help them to achieve this. Flexible working can, for example, let staff work four day weeks, or spend part of the week working from home, thus improving their quality of life, improving morale and increasing productivity.

Talent: Traditional business models pose geographical limits when recruiting. Sure, you can offer relocation costs, but it can lead to you missing out on the perfect candidate. Flexible working means you can recruit staff wherever they are located. In exceptional cases, companies might choose to hire people who live abroad and work with them remotely.

Collaboration: Enabling people to work without meeting face-to-face can increase collaboration because it breaks the dependence on location. If people can virtually attend a meeting and experience audio, video and data sharing, then location is no longer a barrier to bringing the right people together.

Resilience: Working from a single location creates a weakness within the business. It doesn’t take much – a heavy snow storm, a major motorway accident, a power cut – to prevent people from getting to – or working in – the office, and that can cause your company to grind to a halt. Having a workforce that can work from anywhere means business can carry on as usual.

Agility: To survive the current economic conditions you need to innovate and put ideas into practice quickly, before your competitors act. Flexible collaboration between people, wherever they are, makes it possible for companies to respond more quickly to their markets and competitors.

The key to flexible working is to take the time normally spent on travel or meeting administration and instead allocate it to productive remote collaboration. One financial services institution introduced SMART technologies to the workplace and found that, rather than their workforce hundreds of days a year travelling between the UK and India, people now work together more closely from their home countries, in a 24-hour rolling cycle, making the business more agile while also eliminating the travel and hotel costs.

To find out about the flexible working tools Smarter Interactive can supply you with, give us a call on 0118 336 0010.

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