Published Sunday, August 5th, 2012, by Jo Disney - News and Features Editor, U.K.
In part one of our London 2012: Workspace Legacy focus, we explored the possibility that London office workers sent to work from home during the Olympic Games might become more partial to flexible working. Now we delve further into the topic and assess the management attitudes that can either help or hinder the mobile working revolution.
The workplace is gradually changing. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), one billion people worked from home in 2010 alone. IDC predict that the world’s mobile worker population will reach a phenomenal 1.3 billion by 2015, which would represent 37.2 per cent of the entire global workforce.
The mobile phenomenon is making waves. But for those resistant to change or reluctant to embrace agile working, what does it take to become more flexible?
According to telecoms giant O2, a company that itself is pushing the boundaries of flexible working, it’s a change that needs to come from the top down. In a whitepaper produced by the organisation, O2 discovered that company culture and communication worries were the key concerns facing organisations. And Paul Carder, Founder & Director of The Occupiers’ Journal, wholeheartedly agrees.
“It’s a cultural ethos, and management is the biggest challenge”, he said. “The remote working concept is difficult for many organisations because they have developed with ‘line of sight’ management, where managers can always see their team around them. If young workers come into an organisation, fresh out of university, they will work under their managers and do what they do. It can be difficult to break out of that mould – corporate culture change can take a generation to take hold.”
Paul believes that there is a steady shift towards greater flexibility, and the way to make that change happen more effectively is to make use of available tools. For instance, many managers simply don’t know how to supervise or work with remote teams, so they should undertake active training programmes to help make this cultural shift.
Similarly, O2 also recommends the use of tools – particularly what it calls “collaboration tools” – to help managers embrace the shift to flexible working. In particular, O2 recommends three key approaches:
- Hardware: “Clever technology” and devices such as smartphones and tablets are essential.
- Connectivity: A fast, stable connection should enable staff to access the company network in the most efficient way possible, whether it’s from home or from the middle of nowhere.
- Applications: Tools such as free or low-cost video-calling services (ie. FaceTime and Skype) help to improve collaboration and to combat any feelings of isolation.
With global organisations like O2 in the driving seat, a vast array of mobile devices, and more tools and support than ever before, the move towards greater flexibility is slowly becoming a reality. Surely it’s just a matter of ‘when’, and not ‘if’ the business world turns to mobile working. Will the Olympics help to accelerate this shift?
In Part Three, we address the after-effects of the Olympics and whether or not there is any immediate change in workplace arrangements.