The National Lockdown turned the way many businesses operate on its head. According to the Office of National Statistics, 5% of the UK workforce was regularly working from home in 2019 (1). COVID-19 has obviously increased that figure dramatically.
There is a wealth of evidence that remote working is here to stay; many businesses were surprised by how effectively their people could work remotely, with 74% of companies planning to permanently shift to more remote working after the pandemic (2). We are now expecting to see a second surge in demand for remote-working solutions as businesses search for support in achieving a seamless transfer between working locations.
So why are businesses changing their view on flexible and why is it here to stay?
The benefits of flexible working to people
Now that businesses have proven that they can operate without everyone in the physical office space, it is important to look at the benefits to the workforce of a flexible approach to remote working.
45% of people desire flexible working to promote a greater work/life balance and 38% want the flexibility to work at a time that suits them (3).
In the UK, the average commute is 31 minutes one way. When you consider that 61% of us commute daily, that’s a lot of time spent getting to work each week. If full-time workers worked one day less at the office, each person would travel 1526 miles less and save £449.70 a year (4).
Not only does avoiding the daily commute save time and money, but it’s also a popular move with the younger generations, who tend to be environmentally conscious.
A happy workforce is more productive. It has been reported that remote workers often run-up longer days, utilising the time they would have spent commuting to getting ahead with their workload.
Business efficiencies realised in a flexible working environment for big and small organisations
Employees are more productive outside the office and away from distractions – especially for focused, solitary tasks such as writing, programming and auditing. Employers can therefore expect to see more work getting done, to a higher standard.
Though productivity isn’t the only benefit of remote working; businesses could save costs by negating the need for office premises, reducing rent, utility bills and many other expenses.
The impacts can also be seen in recruiting from a broader talent pool, not limited to just the local area, enabling businesses to create a more diverse team with stronger skills. It also promotes equality by removing obstacles such as physical accessibility and proximity to childcare.
So, what does the flexible future look like? Hybrid working.
We have already mentioned that employees are more productive, particularly with solitary tasks, outside of the office where there are fewer distractions but what about collaboration?
Aside from salary, flexibility is ranked as the most important benefit by workers with 67% of employees placing flexible working within their top five benefits. Flexibility is more than just working from home; it’s about being able to choose the right place for the right task. Home may be the best place for getting things done, while the office is used to focus on the sharing of ideas, as well as customer and team meetings (5).
The office is a place to be social and catch-up with colleagues, building the relationships that help us work together. For remote workers, this social element of work can be lacking, 30% of people admit to finding it lonely working from home and 26% miss socialising informally with colleagues. Studies suggest that employees get most satisfaction from working remotely about two days per week; any more than this and the costs of isolation from others can start to outweigh the benefits of freedom and flexibility (6).
When there isn’t an option for a hybrid working environment between home and the office, we rely on technology for this human interaction. In place of face-to-face social activity, we can stay in touch through collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams. And digital team events like video chat catch-ups can promote the social side of work. Recent technological advancements mean that you can now integrate Teams into your phone system for a fully integrated collaboration tool.
Connectivity is key
Technology makes it possible to achieve greater flexibility at work. Smartphones and tablets mean we’re always connected, wherever we’re working. Organisations are migrating to cloud applications, so we can carry on working from where we left off, on any device, anywhere. By 2022, 55–60% of organisations will use an external service provider’s cloud managed service, up from 30% in 2018 (7).
We’ve already touched on some of the many benefits to promoting a flexible working environment and there is no doubt that the technology available to us today has meant businesses surviving in an entirely different way than they would have in a National Lockdown even ten years ago but it is important to note that remote workforces can be hindered if their ability to communicate effectively isn’t addressed. And as we’ve all experienced from using our home (probably broadband) connectivity in the last few months.
The Openreach network saw a 25% increase in usage between February and April 2020, with this increase being concentrated in the daytime and it is no wonder, with so many of use utilising video streaming and collaboration tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams over non-business grade technology.
With the events of the past quarter being entirely unprecedented in the modern business arena, there are no doubt many businesses who hurried to patch together solutions to get them through what we thought would be a very temporary time. We must now review our business infrastructure to ensure that we have a full and robust Business Contingency plan for the future, and to avoid being left behind with such a large portion of companies moving to a more flexible working environment.
With so much of the modern-day business being based in the cloud, the crossover between technology and communications has never been greater and it is of great benefit to work with a Unified Communications specialist who will understand your requirements from end to end and offer the appropriate solutions for your business.
2 Circles understand that it is difficult to navigate the cacophony of solutions, our expertise could not make us better placed to help you identify the best setup for your bespoke business requirements, whatever the future looks like for your business.
Source: O2 Business, The flexible future of work. Employee Connectivity Research Report. July 2020.
Source: Preparing for the second surge in remote working, TTB Partner Insights. July 2020.
(1) Office for National Statistics, 2019. Coronavirus and homeworking in the UK labour market: 2019. https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/ employmentandemployeetypes/articles/coronavirusandhomeworkingintheuklabourmarket/2019
(2) Gartner, 2020. Gartner CFO survey reveals 74% intend to shift some employees to remote working permanently. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-04-03gartner-cfo-surey-reveals-74-percent-of-organizations-to-shift-some-employees-to-remotework-permanently2
(3) ICM Unlimited survey of 2019 working adults, aged 16+, covering all UK nations and regions, March 2020
(4) Calculated based on average daily mileage of 29.3 miles and average daily costs of £8.65
(5) Forbes, 2020. How organizations can make telecommuting work in the long run. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaimepotter/2020/04/06/how-can-organizations-maketelecommuting-work-over-the-long-run/#40dfee714d7e
(6) Forbes, 2020. How organizations can make telecommuting work in the long run. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaimepotter/2020/04/06/how-can-organizations-maketelecommuting-work-over-the-long-run/#40dfee714d7e
(7) Telefonica, 2019. ICT trends 2020. https://www.business-solutions.telefonica.com/en/ information-centre/multimedia/ict-trends-2020/