Remote working is unshackling workers from office desks and helping businesses to attract talent – but is it always conducive to productivity?
In 2018, the phrase “working nine-to-five” is largely limited to Dolly Parton fans visiting karaoke bars. Modern employees, powered by connected technology, sing a different tune. They are encouraged to eschew traditional ways of working, and are both happier and more productive.
“Gone are the days of rigid schedules where workers are fixed to computer terminals between the hours of 9am and 5pm,” says Ryan Asdourian, senior director at Microsoft.
Numerous surveys have found that workers would choose flexible working over a pay rise
“With technology on our side, the opportunities are endless as the reimagined modern workplace is here. More than ever, the best talent is seeking organisations that encourage creativity, shun silos and support flexible working.”
Indeed, we are waltzing into a new era of hypermobility: the anywhere office. This exponential trend is fuelled by a plethora of smartphones, laptops, tablets, the rapid increase in capacity of mobile technology and a growing prevalence of Wi-Fi hotspots in public places. Furthermore, better enabling services are on the horizon, as is 5G connectivity.
Flexible working is made more practical with unified communications (UC): a catch-all term for the integration of features including instant messaging, voice, audio and video services – the point where strategy, operations and production converge.
The benefit of UC is the opportunity for flexible instant connectivity regardless of whether colleagues are “in the office”. A single team member can speak for the group, or members can join and contribute to discussions as they occur, regardless of location, time zone or any other factor.
Numerous surveys have found that workers would choose flexible working over a pay rise. A study involving 8,000 global employees and employers conducted by Vodafone in 2016 found that three-quarters of companies worldwide have already adopted flexible working policies and 61pc of them believe that it had increased their company’s profits. Even more convincingly, 83pc reported that productivity was boosted by flexible hours rather than reduced by them.
More meaningful working lives
Mark Greenaway, director of emerging business, EMEA, at Adobe, says: “Remote working is one of the most revolutionary business trends of recent years, and has given rise to a host of technologies that provide a more intuitive working experience, improve employee productivity and unshackle people from the office.
“Notably, thanks to the cloud, the number of collaboration tools available has skyrocketed, and it’s easier than ever to experience the same unified interface at work as remotely. When staff work via the cloud, they commonly access ‘living documents’ – shared files which can be updated by anyone in real time.”
Mr Greenaway says: “In the future, artificial intelligence [AI] will turn these living documents into content which is truly alive. With these AI-enabled documents, employees will be able to manage formatting, make corrections to copy and help keep team members informed of continuing changes. While small, these innovative improvements will change the way teams work together remotely on any device.”
Philip Lacor, vice-principal of global sales at Dropbox, warns that just because an employee can log in from anywhere, at any time, does not mean they should. “Imagine if Albert Einstein got up and cleared his email inbox every morning, with his smartphone next to him buzzing every time he got a notification. Would we have the theory of relativity?”
He adds: “The answer to how we can be more productive in an era of hypermobility does not lie in simply being more connected and stuffing more into the hours available. We have to look very closely at the way we are working and collaborating to fuel the spark in all of us, and to unleash the creative energy that helps us stay in the zone and deliver our best work.
“We must be both aware of the perils of distraction and optimistic about technology’s capacity to do the heavy lifting, and therefore move us closer to a more meaningful and fulfilling working life.”