A survey of European and Irish businesses has found that while the majority of employers are aware of the benefits of flexible working practices, they have yet to implement a strategy for making new ways of working a reality.
Among Irish businesses surveyed, 74% say they are open to flexible work practices, but only 11% provide the basic technology which would enable such flexibility.
Strangely, 69% of businesses say that they have policies in place on flexible working but 30% of employees said that have not received guidelines for flexible working.
The survey, carried out by Vanson Bourne and commissioned by Microsoft, also found that only 19% of businesses measured the impact of flexible working, under such parameters as employee satisfaction, productivity and customer satisfaction.
"Flexible working has real tangible benefits for employers and employees," said Gina Quin, chief executive, Dublin Chamber of Commerce, "as it helps create a cost-efficient company, saving large sums on office space and other overheads, such as electricity, office equipment and housekeeping costs. Furthermore it can create more productive workers by giving employees the opportunity to devote quality time to their work. This guide will provide a platform for businesses to help transform their organisation into a 21st century ‘smart business' that will be of mutual benefit to employers and employees alike."
Despite the prevalence of bring your own technology initiatives, the report appears to question the practice. It states what while 94% of businesses believe that technology improves collaboration, they are relying on their staff to supply their own laptops, smartphones and other devices to enable them to benefit from a more flexible and therefore more productive work place, as opposed to investing in the right technologies themselves that will better enable them to achieve the cost and efficiency saving required.
"There is no one-size-fits-all approach to new ways of working," said Martin Cullen, director SMS&P, Microsoft Ireland. "Each business has to go on its own journey. But the need to make these changes has never been greater. The continuing economic crisis along with an increasing lack of skilled workers, and the need for greater business efficiency and agility presents a compelling case for businesses to adopt flexible working as a cornerstone of their future success."
Microsoft has implemented the new world of work in its own offices in Sandyford, Dublin, and from its experiences has issued a guide to help other companies to achieve the benefits.
"This guide was developed to aid Irish businesses and their employees to create a dialogue which can enable greater efficiency, productivity and cost savings to be achieved and so there is a clear understanding of how and why a more flexible work ethos would be mutually beneficial to both the business and to employees," said Cullen.
The Organisation's Guide to the New World of Work
Managers who seek to implement the New World of Work in their organisations often seek guidance on how to implement changes that affect people, technology and workspaces. This guide outlines considerations on how best to implement a flexible, mobile and collaborative work-style for employers and their workforce.
The characteristics of a manager in the New World of Work are different from those of traditional managers.
The key characteristics of New World of Work managers
- * Emotional intelligence
- * Great communications skills
- * Coach rather than supervise
- * Inspirational and authentic
Organisational leaders need to create an atmosphere of openness and forums for the exchange of ideas.
- * Allow employees to voice their opinions and ideas openly
- * Support and nurture good people
- * Offer choice to your employees - be flexible
- * Measure success by outputs rather than by inputs or activity
Training programmes will be needed for both staff and management, as they adapt to an environment where constant contact in an office environment is no longer the norm.
The key skill for managers will be clear communication with employees and setting clear expectations. Employees will need to learn to stay connected with the organisation, even when working remotely.
When implementing the New World of Work, it is important to introduce enabling technology to complement the changes in the work-style and working environment. The best option is new working arrangements, enabled by new technology.
Use of cloud-based technologies and applications are more cost efficient for organisations.
Provide access while maintaining control:
- * Managers should consider the opportunities for increased productivity and communication with customers
- * Managers need to understand increased security risks posed by online, anytime access to private networks and data
- * Facilitate employees who wish to use various form-factors and mobile devices such as laptops, tablets or smartphones
Make your workplace fit for purpose.
Offices of the future will be smaller, have shared spaces for essential networking, while employees are encouraged to work in different locations, whether on the road, at home or on client sites.
- * Create a workspace that has been optimised for the different phases of work
- * Encourage employees to move around and work in the environment that best suits their activity
Types of work areas:
- * quiet areas for workers that need peace to concentrate on their work
- * a community area for meetings and interaction
- * relaxation zones and open refreshment areas that encourage conversation and ad hoc meetings between employees
For full details of the guide, see www.microsoft.com/ireland/Office365