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Energy Efficiency

Klaus Holse Andersen (Europe) - Tackling the Disconnect Between Supply and Demand for a New World of Work

Those of us that work flexibly tend to take for granted the positive impact it has on our professional and personal lives. A flexible approach helps you get more done, no matter where and when you need to work. The so-called "death of the desk" is something to be embraced.

Why then, are not more businesses making flexible working available to employees? There are multiple benefits to be gained from a new way of working: increased productivity, as well as an improved ability to attract and retain the best talent. Greater flexibility for employees results in higher satisfaction and quality of life and, for the environment, less unnecessary traffic and thus reduced CO2 emissions. Nothing actually hinders us from moving very quickly into a ‘New World of Work', in which redesigned offices and the latest technology facilitate even greater flexibility that makes our working lives easier and more manageable.

There's simply a disconnect between demand and supply for smart approaches to work. A recent Microsoft study in 15 European countries that explored attitudes towards flexible working among 1,500 employees revealed that despite the huge benefits of flexible work for both organisations and workers, the majority of businesses do not adequately support their employees to work away from the office.

Interestingly, small businesses better meet employees' demands to have greater flexibility in deciding when and where to work. While about one-quarter of employees in businesses with fewer than 50 employees regularly work away from the office, only 9 % of staff in companies with 500 or more employees does so. Flexible work amounts to little without the technology to make it happen, though. Despite demand to work more flexibly, the study indicates that half of European workers lack access to the most basic technology tools that would enable them to work away from the office.

The keys to success: Technology and trust

Inevitably, the IT department holds one of the keys to success in implementing a new approach to work - by providing the right off-premises support. However, just 19 % of employees find their already overstretched IT team "very helpful" in providing technology support for flexible working. Even though technology is widely available today to enable flexible working - be it mobile devices or cloud services granting access to software and company resources from virtually everywhere - its natural use in European businesses is far from standard.

By not enabling - and even promoting - greater flexibility, businesses are missing out on the opportunity to increase their productivity and attract and retain great talent. To realise the potential of new ways of work businesses need to create a culture that trusts staff to be productive away from the office. Perhaps this is where larger organisations are challenged.

Organisations that will be successful in the future are those that break down the barriers between people, workplace and technology and establish a culture of trust. This means empowering people by providing them with a workplace that facilitates flexibility, self-direction and engagement and enabling them with the technology and tools that help them to be productive wherever they are. To bring the vision of a New World of Work to life, leadership teams need to establish a culture that is focused on what individuals achieve, rather than how long they spend in the office.

Taking the next step into the New World of Work is all about changing how we embrace the new digital lifestyle and the accompanying physical, cultural and mental changes which empower people to work in the way they find most productive. According to a recent white paper from Microsoft UK's Hybrid Organisation initiative, barriers to new ways of working often occur in the middle layers of business. Thus the experts of the Hybrid Organisation initiative Advisory Board recommend that business leaders should work with middle management to devise a flexible vision, creating buy-in and driving change right through the organisation.

There is a lot to be gained from a happier, more mobile and productive workforce! There is not a one-size-fits-all solution however, but in all cases a culture of trust and collaboration is the route to success.

By Klaus Holse Andersen, vice president, Microsoft (Western Europe).

 

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