The World of Work is Changing, Are You Ready?
The concept of the digital worker is something that no business can afford to ignore in 2018. The preconceptions that flexible working strategies are reserved for people with parenting responsibilities or those with health problems are fading, thanks to changes in workplaces trends, technology, and even UK laws. In fact, in the United Kingdom, all employees are now entitled to request their own flexible working arrangement.
For the worker, versatile schedules can be an exciting thing. They mean that people can get more control over their work/life balance, reduce their reliance on the costly commute, and spend more time on leisure activities. When used correctly, a digital working solution can save money for businesses and employees alike, help people to remain more productive, and ensure that your employees are happier in your job.
Unfortunately, business leaders aren’t always comfortable with the concept of flexible work. Though perceptions are changing, there are still bosses out there who wonder how people are going to get things done when they’re sat in the comfort of their own home, with a television only inches away.
Ready or Not, the Flexible Workforce is Here
No matter how you might feel about flexible working, there’s no longer any time for a discussion. Research has found that up to 87% of the UK’s full-time workforce might be working flexibly for at least some of their jobs, and millennials would prefer to avoid going to the office completely. After all, if you can access the same computer software over the cloud, connect with your coworkers through valuable unified communications and collaboration tools, and wear your comfy clothes at the same time – it’s hard to see the downside.
The problem is that some managers and business leaders are still convinced that they need to keep an eye on their employees all the time to make sure that they’re getting things done. This lack of trust has caused some employers to start dithering over whether they should offer digital working environments for their recruits at all.
Unfortunately, if you’re not willing to join the flexible revolution, then you could be in trouble. After all, as more millennials enter the workforce, and remote working grows more popular, companies that fall behind might just lose their ability to attract top-tier talent.
Are You Ready for the Remote Workforce?
Allowing employees to choose their own versatile schedules for work, and complete tasks outside of the office has a range of distinct benefits. For instance, if you don’t need your staff to come into an office to perform each day, then you don’t need to pay for expensive real estate. That means you cut costs on everything from internet connectivity, to utilities. At the same time, flexible working means:
- You can employee recruits from various locations – not just the applicants that happen to be in your immediate vicinity.
- Flexible workers are happier and more productive than their counterparts, according to some studies.
- You can attract more experts because flexible working appeals to those looking for work/life balance.
In a world that’s plagued by a never-ending skills crisis, flexible working is something that no business should ignore. This is the time for brands to ask themselves whether the jobs they offer are suitable for remote working solutions and whether they can let go of the idea that time spent in an office automatically correlates with productivity. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Embracing the Digital Worker: Implementing Flexibility
Implementing flexibility within your workforce is about focusing on three essential things:
- The Technology
- The People
- The Culture
Look at your business environment and ask yourself whether there are jobs in your network that could be accomplished just as well outside of the office. For instance, a construction worker simply won’t be able to do most of their work from home – but an accounts manager or customer service representative could.
Once you’ve determined that your workplace is ready for the digital workforce follow these three steps:
Step 1: Implementing Digital Transformation
Like any other shift in the workplace, embracing the digital worker is all about having the right processes in place. For most, this will start with a focus on digital transformation. After all, the most important thing any company needs to be successful with remote workers is the right technology. It’s technology that’s allowed flexible working to become so popular in the first place – whether it’s the video conferencing solutions that help employees to feel immersed and connected with their co-workers, or the collaboration tools used to share documents.
Look at your current IT infrastructure and ask yourself what you could do to give your employees access to the things they need outside of the office. For instance:
- Becoming a software-focused company with tools and resources available on the cloud will mean that your employees can access the information they need on-the-go.
- Implementing a unified collaboration and communication tool ensures that managers and workers can stay connected on a single, easy-to-maintain interface.
- Pilot any new technology initiatives before you roll them out completely to understand what works for your company.
Step 2: Managing the People
Once you’ve got the right technology in place to support a digital workforce, you’ll need to think about how you can support your people and prepare them for the change in their day-to-day routine. Younger employees want the option for flexibility most, with 92% saying they want to work remotely.
When someone comes to you requesting a flexible schedule, ask yourself whether the employee in question has demonstrated an ability to produce results according to deadlines. Often, remote workers need to be highly motivated and focused on their goals.
Many businesses give their employees a “trial run” to determine how well they can perform in remote or flexible working environments. Remember, once you know that your people are ready to embrace the chances of a flexible workforce, you’ll also need to ensure that they know how to align themselves with other people in your organisation – regardless of where they are.
The technology you implemented during your digital transformation should help with this alignment. For instance, Unified Communications and Collaboration tech ensures that everyone accesses the same services to connect over projects, no matter which device they might be using.
Step 3: Get the Culture Right
Finally, flexible working environments need to have the right culture if they’re going to thrive. The first step here is taking the time to establish a clear set of processes for how flexible working should be approached by the members of your organisation. Documenting rules, regulations, and expectations and circulating those files among employees can be helpful.
Managers and leaders need to set their digital workers up to succeed, with the right technology, and the right approach to business performance. To begin with, it’s likely that bosses will have to conduct more meetings and take more questions from their remote employees to keep everything running smoothly. However, as your employees begin to embrace the guidelines you’ve put in place for them, you’ll notice your organisation coming together as a more cohesive goal.
When used correctly, flexible working arrangements can have many benefits. From allowing businesses to build teams around the world, to ensuring that employees are happier and more productive, it can be a win/win situation. The key to success is having the right digital transformation, people-management and cultural strategies in place.
Whether you like it or not, the digital revolution is here, make sure that you’re prepared.
Rob is Founder & Publisher of UC Today, a leading news publication specialising in Unified Communications & Collaboration technologies.