The Great Debate UK
–Scott Dodds is the General Manager of Marketing & Operations for Microsoft UK. Microsoft was a founding member of the Anywhere Working Consortium. The opinions expressed are his own.–
Nick Clegg’s support for flexible working for parents is welcome but if the UK is to capitalise on the opportunities offered by the knowledge economy we need to move from making flexibility an option for the minority to a stance that makes it available to the large majority of us.
Flexible working is not less productive than office working: 72 per cent of companies surveyed by Regus reported higher productivity after implementing it. An article in the September 2012 Journal of Economic Behaviour & Organization found that telecommuters outperformed in creative tasks and an August 2012 article in the Harvard Business Review website, based on research by Edinger Consulting Group, found that remote workers are actually more engaged than their desk-bound peers. With ‘anywhere working’ people get closer to customers, work smarter and take the weight off roads and public transport at peak times, reducing commuting stress as well as environmental impact.
Big changes to working practices can be achieved. Take the Olympics where the success of the Games extended far beyond sporting prowess. Many had predicted travel chaos but Londoners were persuaded to work remotely or stagger their commute times, meaning the transport network coped. The independent Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 said it had been amazed by the success of the public transport despite TfL reporting record overall numbers on its network, expanding to 4.5 million tube journeys on the final Tuesday of the Games.
-Dave Coplin led Microsoft’s Hybrid Organisation programme. The opinions expressed are his own.-
Here’s a modest proposal for your business. Stop making staff commute to office blocks and instead create attractive new workplaces that encourage people to drop in, bump into each other and hold ad hoc meetings in comfortable and stress-free spaces. Make sure you have the best coffee and food of any of your competitors. Don’t give staff their own desks but offer the flexibility to work from wherever they like and to choose their own computers. Take an axe to hierarchical constraints that constrain progress and watch out for middle managers that are likely to be your biggest impediments to change. Make IT systems accessible from any device, anywhere in the world. Sounds outrageous? Perhaps, but these tactics and strategies are precisely those being adopted by many forward-looking organisations.