How we work has undergone a revolution in the past few years. The move to a more digitally-focused environment and advanced technology has made firms more productive and cost-efficient, and greatly expanded the range of services they’re able to offer to their customers.
But there is also an increasing focus on when and where we work. Many firms have already recognised that the traditional office-based nine-to-five is no longer necessary, or even desirable, and businesses will find themselves facing growing demands from their employees to adopt a more flexible way of operating.
Initiatives such as fully flexible working and four-day weeks that aim to promote a better work-life balance are among the solutions that have been introduced in many businesses. Indeed, it’s estimated that by next year, half of people will work remotely, while one in four Brits have already changed their role to find better flexibility, so if firms aren’t already looking at addressing these evolving needs, they will quickly fall behind the curve.
However, in order for these practices to be effective, it will be vital that firms put in place the right technologies and tools to enable employees to work wherever and whenever they wish without compromise.
Younger workers bring in new attitudes
Much of this demand is coming from a younger generation of workers for whom always-on connectivity has always been a natural part of these lives, and these can be broadly split into two main groups – generation Y, or millenials, and generation Z.
Millennials – those born between 1980 and 1995 – have got a lot of attention in recent years, and this is understandable. With many baby boomers reaching retirement age, these workers now make up the biggest group of employees, while generation Z – those born after 1995 – are also entering the workforce and will have their own set of expectations.
While both these cohorts are tech-savvy and digitally dependent, it’s important not to group them together into one bloc, as there are some key differences. For instance, millennials tend to be less motivated by financial gain and personal career advancement, with this group placing a much higher emphasis on a strong work-life balance and a desire for flexibility.
Generation Z workers, meanwhile, expect more direct interaction. While this may seem counterintuitive for a group that often primarily interact via smartphone and social media, these demands for more frequent face-to-face discussions will also affect how firms go about offering flexible working practices.
What this means for your business
The upshot of this for businesses is that they will have to put in place advanced solutions to ensure workers can be just as effective at home or on the train as they would be in the office. This starts with connectivity, as no flexible worker can be effective without fast, reliable broadband and mobile data.
However, tools like 5G mobile and full fibre are just the foundations. Firms need to build on these with effective software applications and collaboration solutions that ensure individuals working remotely can still play a full role in the business, without restrictions on what data or applications they can access, or being left out of discussions and decision making.
For instance, this means moving away from traditional solutions such as sending email attachments and using file transfers when collaborating on documents. Instead, file-sharing services that can be viewed and edited from anywhere, with updates being seen in real-time, will be a must-have if flexible and home workers are to be effective.
Meanwhile, fast, reliable video conferencing and instant messaging services are also essential in ensuring that today’s flexible workers can always keep in touch in a firm that works for them.
With many young workers making flexibility and work-life balance a top priority when choosing between jobs, businesses will have to make sure they’re offering the right tools if they want to attract and retain the top talent in the coming years.
Find out more about how firms will need to adapt to the modern workplace in our new white paper.