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As part of a campaign looking at the workplace of the future, Jason Downes from Powwownow predicts that it is only a matter of time before flexible working becomes the norm.

Technology is increasingly a fundamental component of our day-to-day lives.  The last couple of decades in particular have seen dramatic changes in the business world, with the majority of people in the UK now owning at least one piece of modern day technology.  Gone are the days of having no alternative to travelling abroad for meetings and walking to post rooms to send letters, as conference calls and web chat provide that instant, quick-fix solution.

Flexible working is a term that has been coined alongside technological development and refers to a style of working to suit the employee, and can include versatile working hours or working from home. By giving employees the freedom to change the traditional 9-5 working day and choose where they work from, they can become more efficient with the time they do have as the TUC recently reported that British workers currently spend an average of 200 hours per year in their commute to work.

Legislation change

On 30th June 2014, a law was passed entitling employees to request flexible working hours if they have been with their company for 26 weeks or more. Prior to this change, the law only applied to those who were carers for infants or family members.  However, despite the change, most are unaware of the amendment or are too shy to ask their employers particularly if flexible working is not yet the norm for their company.

Considering the technology available, the UK’s working culture is rapidly becoming outdated as many businesses are office-based and still have rigid working hours, but I am confident that by 2020 this will no longer be the case and remote working will become the absolute norm. The professional industry will continue to adopt these changes because many up and coming companies already promote flexible working. I believe that the larger, more traditional businesses will start to follow suit in the next five years because all individuals work in their own unique way.

Flexible alternatives

By replacing traditional workplace structures with modern, more fluid options, employees can then focus on getting more work done rather than clock watching, as studies have shown that enforcing a strict, one size fits all routine can be detrimental to those that do not work best under those conditions..

Flexible working benefits everyone. If employees feel they are able to fulfil their duties both at work and at home, they would be more motivated to complete their tasks in a timely manner and be thorough with the work they put in.  Conversely, if a person feels guilty about the amount of time spent away from their family or feel like they are missing certain milestones, then they will lose focus and get easily frustrated at tasks at hand.

Technology has progressed so much that it now allows businesses to stay in touch with colleagues, suppliers and customers regardless of location.  Conferencing services and web-based communication channels enable anyone to still do their “traditional” job whilst out of the office.  It now means that businesses can employ staff based on their talent rather than locality.

Start-up benefits

Start-up companies have really seen the benefit of flexible working as an effective way to manage and reduce their costs; particularly in the first couple of years when every penny counts. Money that would have been spent on office costs is being used to hire more staff and workers can contribute from remote locations without compromising their levels of communication. This means that start-ups can benefit from a variety of skilled individuals and avoid having to pay for them to physically convene in one place.

The younger, more tech-savvy generations Y & Z are beginning to expect flexible working as an option, fully aware that they can remain constantly connected via mobile devices. The appeal of having the freedom to decide where you work from is strong. Job satisfaction and retention improves if flexible working is available, because if they can work effectively from alternative locations to an office, then there is no real reason to prevent them from doing so.

In summary…

In summary, although technological developments have caused a shift in traditional ways of working, these changes actually allow for greater productivity in a shorter space of time. It also means that, in the battle to attract top talent, the option of flexible working must now become part of the package on offer because work-life balance is becoming an ever greater priority. The flexible working laws are a step in the right direction but in the future I expect more and more business will be done via technological mediums, making flexible working the new norm.

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