The concept of flexible working is as commonplace today, as the faceless cubicles of the 1980s were in their own era. However, a lack of appropriate technology combined with a residual culture of ‘presenteeism’ has hampered flexible and home working, preventing it from really taking off. According to a report from The Work Foundation, we are now entering the perfect storm – where technology has finally caught up with the desire to work anywhere – reaching the tipping point of the flexible working revolution.
As The Work Foundation duly notes, over the past decades, we have transformed from an industrial economy to a global service economy, where we used to ‘make’ we now ‘do’. In spite of this, our predominant working patterns remain the 9-5 clock in and out at the factory gates.
In the modern world, we work in teams across counties, countries and continents, desk space is at a premium, and an ‘always-on’ culture drives non-traditional hours. In many industries and organisations flexible working is a necessary and welcome requirement. It improves efficiency, morale and even the health and motivation of the workforce.
However, it is only much more recently that technology has become mobile enough to facilitate the same level of productivity on a train or at the top of a mountain (if you wanted to take a laptop up there) as in an office. Smartphones, laptops and tablets are increasingly accessible and affordable and (for better or worse)
Of course, establishing the true extent of flexible working is difficult. Current estimates show that just fewer than 40% of organisations have adopted mobile working. By 2020 it is estimated that nearly 75% of organisations will be promoting flexible working to their employees. The tipping point (i.e the level at which flexible working becomes unstoppable) will soon be upon us.
That said, the Work Foundation report does not show the full extent and penetration of flexible working. The survey undertaken did not poll any small companies with less than 50 members of staff. In the BCA’s view, it is small companies that are leading the flexible working revolution. Indeed, the title of the BCA Conference 2016 ‘Era of Change: Engage, Influence and Lead in a Mobile World’ highlights what has been known in the serviced office sector for some time, the tipping point for flexible working could well have passed.
The growth of flexible workspace providers, particularly providing to small businesses, is testament to this. The Office Group has recently submitted plans to transform the former Metropolitan Police HQ to create 105,000 sq ft of office space to include co-working space – the epitome of flexible working.
According to According to the BCA’s own figures, the flexible workspace industry is worth a massive £2 billion in the UK – and growing every year. According to Samsung, 27% of interviewees would prefer flexible working to a pay rise. With statistics like that, its time organisations took note of the serviced office sector, they may learn a thing or two.