The Collaboration Tools Driving the Flexible Working Revolution

Connected Devices modern workplace

Flexible working is completely changing the business environment.
Here is what you need to do about It

How we work is changing. Thanks to better connectivity, more powerful and accessible digital tools, the demands of a young workforce with different expectations, firms need to adapt if they are to create an environment that fits in with the modern way of doing business.

One of the biggest changes over the last few years has been the rise of remote and flexible working. Better technology means this is now a practical and convenient option and in turn, this not only improves the productivity of businesses but also ensures they are more attractive places to work.

The Modern Workplace White Paper

In this whitepaper we explore the influences that the modern workplace is having on the business environment and what businesses need to do to modernise and harness it to their advantage. 

In the “Modern Workplace White Paper” you will learn:

  • Why 70% of workers say flexible working makes a job more attractive
  • Millennials now count for over 50% of the workforce
  • What Millennials and Generation Z expect from the workplace
  • Why Flexible working is taking over the UK
  • Which proven technologies increase productivity
  • The tools needed for a modern workplace
  • Common connectivity and shadow IT barriers
  • How to successfully collaborate in a “GDPR” era.
Discover more by downloading our FREE White Paper below:

A More Flexible Workplace

The UK has long had a very traditional approach to work, with fixed hours and limited opportunities for flexibility, but this is changing fast! Businesses need to adapt fast and provide collaboration tools that attend to this new reality.

While there are a wide range of solutions available that can meet these demands, the best technologies for any specific business will depend on its budget, technical requirements and set-up. Therefore, an expert telecoms provider is an invaluable asset that can advise firms on how to integrate and implement these solutions to achieve the maximum benefits.

Contact Us

To be successful, firms will need an integrated solution that encompasses everything flexible working employees need, whether they are in the office, on their commute, or working from home.

Speak to our technical advisers to receive a tailored proposal to your business.

The Modern Workplace

How to implement the collaboration tools that are helping manage the flexible working revolution.

  1. Introduction: A more flexible workplace

 

How we work is changing. Thanks to better connectivity, more powerful and accessible digital tools, and the demands of a young workforce with different expectations about how they work, firms need to adapt if they are to create an environment that fits in with the modern way of doing business.

One of the biggest changes over the last few years has been the rise of flexible and remote working. Better technology means this is now a practical and convenient option for many workers and in turn, this not only improves the productivity of businesses, but also ensures they are more attractive places to work.

The UK has long had a very traditional approach to work, with fixed hours and limited opportunities for flexibility, but this is changing as other countries explore innovative ideas such as fully flexible hours and four-day weeks. This cultural shift is driven largely by younger workers who are more concerned about having a good work/life balance. There is a growing recognition of the benefits this can offer, such as better mental health and being able to devote more time to family.

Indeed, nearly nine out of ten workers in the UK (89 per cent) say flexible working is more effective than financial incentives for boosting productivity[1], while almost one in four people in the UK have changed their role in order to work more flexibly. This is especially important to millennial workers, with one global study finding these individuals rate a positive work/life balance as more important than having opportunities for career progression when looking for a job.

Flexible working stats
50% of people to work remotely by 2020
70% of workers say flexibility makes a job more attractive
10% increase in staff retention rates for firms with flexible working policies

In order to make the most of this, firms will have to ensure that flexible, remote and mobile workers are always fully integrated and connected with the rest of the business. This means they will have to put in place the right connectivity tools that allow employees to access key applications and communicate directly with colleagues and partners wherever and whenever they want.

There will be a wide variety of solutions that will be needed to make this a success. For instance, high-quality video conferencing services will be a must if remote workers are to fully participate in their business, while cloud collaboration tools, instant messaging and advanced mobile devices are also essential elements. All of these must also be supported with high-speed infrastructure such as fibre broadband and 4G/5G mobile services.

Understanding how to implement these technologies effectively could therefore be the difference between a successful organisation that meets the evolving demands of its employees and offers them the flexibility they expect, and those that fall behind.

  1. Breaking free from the traditional workplace

 

To be successful in today’s environment, firms must consign old, outdated ways of working to the history books. The days when companies operated from distinct offices between the hours of 9am to 5pm, with each worker having their own dedicated workspace – whether in a private office or a desk in an open-plan environment – are long .

Instead, today’s workplace is just as likely to be a train seat, a kitchen table or a hotdesk in a communal space, as workers rethink what’s possible. Firms that don’t respond to this will be less productive, have lower morale, and earn less money. So what’s driving this working revolution?

 

The trends transforming how firms operate

 

The greater demand for flexibility is one key factor, boosted by easy access to connectivity and an ‘always-on’ culture. In 1999, it was estimated that just one in ten people worked flexible hours[5], but by 2020, this will be more than one in two.

 

This comes from a growing desire from employees to improve their work-life balance and make sure their job fits into their lifestyle, not the other way around. For instance, one reason for this could be to reduce the time and stress caused by a long commute, with the average worker spending almost an hour a day, or 219 hours a year, getting to and from work[6]. Alternatively, it could mean having the freedom to work different hours in order to handle childcare duties.

However, it’s not just flexible and remote working that are transforming how companies operate. Even within businesses, there are significant changes taking place that will affect how work gets done.

For instance, hot desking is a growing trend for many firms that aims to encourage collaboration and boost productivity. But if this is to be successful, it needs to be treated like any other form of flexible working. This means ensuring people have the communication and collaboration tools they need to keep in touch and collaborate regardless of where in the company they choose to work from.

 

Changing how employees collaborate

 

All this means the way people work together is changing, both internally and with external contacts, who now expect to be much more involved and treated less as clients and more as equal partners. In addition to communication tools that ensure people can keep in touch when they are not at their desk, the ability to instantly access the latest data and collaborate in real-time on projects is key to success.

This means breaking away from traditional tools like emails and file transfer and moving towards file-sharing services that can be updated and viewed in real time by people inside and outside of the business.

 

Another factor is how employees across different parts of the business and in different locations work together. In previous years, companies with offices spread over the UK could expect to spend huge amounts of time and money simply getting people between offices.

Between the high costs of transport and poor connectivity along the journey that hinders workers’ ability to make the most of this time, this is very bad for a company’s productivity. But with tools such as high-quality video conferencing, much of this travel can be eliminated. And when combined with other collaboration tools that enable employees on opposite sides of the world to work on a document together in real-time, this ensures people can work as productively as if they were in the same room.

 

  1. The new generations driving cultural change

 

These changes are also being driven by the younger generation of employees who have very different expectations of the world of work than their parents and grandparents. For those who’ve grown up in a mobile-oriented, digital-first world, the idea of being restricted to certain hours or locations is alien to them.

More than ever, the experience within the workplace matters to these workers, and a poor environment that isn’t stimulating them will lead to them looking elsewhere. With as many as 85 per cent of employees not being engaged at work, this can quickly cause problems for both productivity and talent retention.

Meeting the needs of millenials and beyond

 

A lot of focus over the past few years has been placed on millenials. Those born between 1980 and 1995 now account for more than half of the workforce, and it’s estimated that by 2030 they will make up around three-quarters of employees. This group has caused huge disruption in the workplace, with these workers being less settled in their roles and keener to embrace innovation.

 

But it’s not just millenials that firms need to cater for. Already, the oldest members of the so-called generation Z – those born after 1995 – are entering the workforce, and they will already have very different expectations to the generation that came before them.

Even the younger members of generation Y will remember a time when internet connectivity relied on 56k modems and the Nokia 3310 was at the cutting edge of mobile phone capabilities. But generation Z has never known a world where they don’t have instant access to any information wherever they are, and for these individuals, the smartphone, not the PC, is their primary computing device.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that 95 per cent of Gen Z individuals own a smartphone, with more than half (55 per cent) using it for more than five hours a day.

 

In the coming years, as more of these workers leave education and enter the workforce, prospective employers will have to ensure the way they operate meets the differing expectations of this group.

 

Generation Z in the workforce

 

80% want to work with cutting-edge technology
91% say technology influences their job choice
58% want to work on a team as opposed to independently

 

Adapting to an evolving culture

 

Members of these groups expect this connectivity to carry over into the workplace, and companies that don’t offer flexibility and always-on working will be much less attractive. Indeed, one of the most important trends among young workers is a desire for flexibility and strong work-life balance, with many people placing this ahead of financial considerations when looking for a job.

This is more prevalent among millennial workers than generation Z, but there is still a clear cultural shift when compared to older workers. Current and future generations of employees will expect to be able to carry their entire working life with them in their pocket, so the tech offerings a firm provides must reflect this.

However, it’s important to recognise that the human factor is still highly important to younger workers. Four out of ten generation Z workers expect daily interactions with their boss[11], illustrating the high value these workers place on social experiences in the workplace.

Therefore, even if they are not there in person, they do not want to feel distant from the company, and will quickly look for new, more engaging roles, if they feel they are being left out.

 

  1. The tech solutions modern businesses need

 

Meeting these needs requires advanced technology, but with so many options available, it can be difficult to find the right solutions for a firm’s unique needs. Therefore, it’s useful to have the support of an expert partner who can identify what your capabilities are, where improvements can be made, and what tools will be best-suited to the job.

 

So what are some of the biggest challenges facing firms in this environment, and how can they address them?

 
Poor communication

Clear communication between offices, or with mobile and home workers, can be a challenge if firms are still using traditional systems. For instance, it can be difficult to redirect calls to the right personnel, or ensure people have access to the most up-to-date information.

However, turning to cloud telephony services such as Scala or Gamma Horizon and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams can address these issues, making it easy to communicate via voice, instant message or video conferencing, share screens and documents, and keep in touch in the office, at home or on the move.

Lack of mobile tools

A common issue for mobile workers is the use of tools such as smartphones and tablets that are outdated or ill-suited to the tasks they wish to conduct. Addressing this area should be a top priority for any modern business, as it is essential for mobile and remote workers to have the same access to colleagues and collaboration tools no matter where they are or what device they have. However, firms must also ensure that the tools their staff use – whether business or employee-owned – are protected using mobile security solutions like Wandera and MaaS360.

Awkward collaboration

Slow, manual processes for collaboration can also greatly reduce business’ productivity and increased confusion among team members. If, for example, various versions of project documents are being shared among members by email, edited, then shared again, it can be easy to lose track of changes. Instead, tools like Teams and Office 365 offer much clearer visibility for project work that can be updated in real time.

There are also few things more irritating for employees than long, unproductive meetings, but the right technology tools can help reduce these frustrations. With reliable, easy-to-use collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, much of the setup and admin tasks related to video conferencing calls with participants in multiple locations can be avoided.

Slow connectivity

Finally, all of the above tools and technologies cannot function effectively unless they are underpinned by fast, reliable connectivity. For flexible businesses, this means not only having a fast business broadband connection on their premises, such as full fibre, but also ensuring home workers are equipped with this technology.

At the same time, ensuring mobile workers have consistent access to fast mobile speeds using 4G – and, in the coming years, 5G – data services will also be vital. Mobile devices should also have strong firewalls in place to minimise any risks posed when connected via unverified mobile or Wi-Fi networks.

 

  1. Managing the mass of data

 

This more flexible approach to the modern workplace does not come without its challenges. One of the biggest issues that any business looking to implement these technologies will face is how to control access to the data it possesses.

With many workers connecting from multiple locations on a range of devices and applications, it’s easy to lose visibility into who is viewing what, and this can leave businesses much more exposed to a data breach.

Flexibility in an era of tough regulations

One of the most consequential changes in data protection in recent years was the implementation of the EU’s GDPR rules, which came into force in May 2018. This introduced a tough new regime for businesses when it comes to looking after the personal information of both customers and employees. With the threat of big penalties for serious breaches, it’s vital businesses take data security into account when implementing a flexible workplace.

To ensure compliance with regulations such as GDPR, without compromising on where and how employees can access vital information, strong defences are a must. As well as robust firewalls and anti-malware solutions, access management technology that can control and keep records of who is viewing key files is hugely important. Meanwhile, tools that can wipe a mobile device remotely should it be lost or stolen are another important consideration.

Eliminating the threat of shadow IT

 

Shadow IT, which refers to the use of any device, application or service that has not been approved by the IT department, is a common problem for all businesses today, but especially those that promote flexible or mobile working. This can include individual tools used by employees of their own volition to make life easier, or even enterprise-grade applications that have been provisioned directly by a business unit without going through proper procurement processes.

The biggest issues caused by this are a lack of visibility and control into where and how data is being used, and the risk of applications with poor security defences being used within a company.

It’s a problem that also may be much more widespread than many firms realise. According to one study, CIOs at large enterprises estimate they see an average of 51 cloud services – when the actual figure is 730, with most firms running around 17 to 20 times more cloud applications than their IT departments had estimated.

A key way to tackle this is to make sure employees have access to the tools they need from approved sources. Much shadow IT involves consumer-grade cloud storage or file-sharing services that make it easier for people to work flexibly. Give employees easy-to-use alternatives that also provide enterprise-level security and monitoring by the IT department and they will have few excuses for looking elsewhere.

 

  1. The tools needed for a more modern workplace

 

Creating a flexible, modern workplace that addresses the evolving needs of tomorrow’s workforce can be a challenging task, and will require a comprehensive review of every aspect of a firm’s IT estate. It will not be enough to simply add one or two new technologies such as video conferencing tools and expect to see results.

To be successful, firms will need an integrated solution that encompasses everything employees need to work, whether they are in the office, on their commute, or working from home.

However, companies that take the time to implement a comprehensive suite of communication, connectivity and collaboration tools can enjoy a wide range of benefits. These include improved productivity, higher employee morale, and even the ability to attract the best new talent to their business from younger workers who place a high value on their employee experience.

While there are a wide range of solutions available that can meet these demands, the best technologies for any specific business will depend on its budget, technical requirements and set-up. Therefore, an expert telecoms provider is an invaluable asset that can advise firms on how to integrate and implement these solutions to achieve the maximum benefits.

To find out more about how Arrow Business Communications can help ensure your business is ready to meet the expectations of the modern workplace, get in touch today on 0330 440 4444 or email enquiries@arrowcommunications.co.uk.