The only thing that is constant is change. As UK organisations face 24/7 competition from around the globe and look to gain better results from their communications investments, the renewed importance of employees’ flexibility and mobility to remain competitive is becoming ever-more apparent. Could the premise of the ‘anywhere employee’, freed from an office-centric role to maximise their productive time, make the difference?
Firms are strongly embracing mobile working principles but so far, have yet to deliver enhanced productivity from that investment. Remarkably, a recent survey of 1000 UK organisations showed that 85 percent of communication devices, used for team collaboration, are now operated outside the traditional company headquarters: companies are clearly devolved and apparently flexible.
However, independent research from the government suggests that UK plc’s productivity is running at 6 per cent below its pre-recession levels . Despite firms’ outlay on IT and their staff’s obvious determination to keep customer share in a tough economy, what is behind Britain’s ‘productivity pause’?
One of the reasons is that, despite all the technology and dispersed workforces, organisations are unable to bring all their communications advances together to boost output. Many employees still struggle to manage e-mail, mobile, landline and social media consistently and effectively to provide an integrated service to customers while driving cost efficiencies.
However, technology advances such as unified communications (UC) infrastructure are enabling changes for Britain’s businesses. The latest UC platforms bring together ‘traditional’ voice and data and next stage tools, like social media, into business operations, providing visibility of where and what teams are doing. These innovations also enable work teams to support partners and customers seamlessly, irrespective of their location or customers’ needs.
UC and other innovations, allied to tailored staff training on how to best use them, is enabling UK organisations to offer an ‘always on’ service such as ‘one number’ contactability, for customers. This enables employees to achieve a new level of productivity because they can work at home, in the office and on the move as never before. Employees can not only switch between meetings and travel far more easily but also manage the flood of incoming communications far more effectively. So, companies’ overall productive time is increased by the ‘anywhere employee’.
Now that workforces are devolved and more productive, organisations can look at the wider implications of flexible working. Can they reduce the overall office space needed and reduce their property estate? As more businesses mobilise and drive up productivity, it appears that the already ailing stereotype of the company shown in our research – with all operations and communications tied to a traditional HQ – is in terminal decline.
As more sophisticated communication and collaboration tools become available, businesses have the ability to make a conscious move towards a devolved workforce, led by the anywhere employee. By implementing a structured and well-researched flexible working strategy, UK organisations can adopt workforce mobility that is customised to their business needs.
The ‘anywhere employee’ is particularly empowered by organisations’ growing utilisation of agile Cloud computing technology. With the right tools, today’s employees are now able to weave together face-to-face meetings, team collaborations and creative tasks. The future benefits of Cloud are becoming widely understood; with 40 per cent of UK businesses reporting cloud deployment plans this year. Not only does this enable employees to increase mobility, they can become more involved in the decision-making process.
The ‘anywhere employee’ is a practical strategy for UK businesses. The benefits of flexible working will go well beyond increased productivity to support a more engaged workforce, particularly from the Generation Y recruits. With the uncertainty surrounding the economy unlikely to go away any time soon, the ‘anywhere’ organisation also has an increased ability to attract and retain the top talent.
More flexible, and crucially, integrated collaboration from platforms like UC is one of the keys to businesses making the most of their communications investments and boosting productivity. In a world of continual change, investment in communications and training to support the anywhere employee is not only desirable, it is essential.