Digital innovations, and in particular, cloud computing is enabling increasing numbers of employees to work remotely and flexibly. This means the central company workspace is rapidly becoming an administrative hub, rather than a traditional central focus where everyone gathers during set hours. This is according to Condeco’s new research paper, The Modern Workplace 2019: People, places & technology which found that 41 per cent of employers already offer remote working, while 60 per cent now allow employees to set own hours. However, the research amongst 750 global corporate leaders found that while recognising digital transformation as crucial to their future success, 60 per cent of those who participated express concern over the speed with which new technologies are reshaping their businesses. Respondents overall say the biggest challenges facing their organisations in the next 12 months are digital transformation (37 per cent) and the adoption of new technology (35 per cent).
Across all countries surveyed, access to talent supply (26 per cent) and regulation and compliance (24 per cent) are considered greater organisational challenges than business uncertainty (22 per cent), However, for companies in the UK, the lack of clarity surrounding Brexit is keenly felt, with 35 per cent of respondents expressing concern over the issue.
Welcome to the flexible working revolution
Almost half of businesses surveyed (41 per cent) say they already offer some degree of remote working, while three-fifths (60 per cent) provide flexitime opportunities, allowing employees to choose when to start and end their workday.
Among the countries in the survey, remote working is particularly prevalent in Australia (45 per cent) and least widespread in Germany (35 per cent). US businesses were least likely to offer flexitime (49 per cent), while those in Singapore were most likely (66 per cent).
Asked why they choose to offer remote working, the most common reason was to improve talent retention (52 per cent). This was a particular feature in the UK (64 per cent) and Australia (75 per cent). Reducing office costs (47 per cent) and meeting employee demand (45 per cent) were the next most significant factors.
“The research clearly shows that businesses are in the process of transforming their workplaces digitally, which enables them to transform the way that they are used physically,” said Paul Statham, CEO of Condeco.
“Today’s technology allows for space to be used more flexibly and for employees to work remotely. This benefits businesses by maximising office space, reducing costs and by keeping employees engaged and productive.”
“Today’s technology allows for space to be used more flexibly and for employees to work remotely.”
The end of meeting-room culture?
When employees do go into the office, it is most often for meetings with colleagues and customers. Yet the researchers discovered that finding, booking and using meeting rooms is a consistent point of organisational tension, even as more people are working remotely. Fewer than a quarter of those surveyed (23 per cent) say that their employees have access to meeting rooms whenever they need them; this falls to 17 per cent in the UK and just 9 per cent in Singapore.
Only a third of respondents (31 per cent) currently use specialist meeting-room scheduling software to help make efficient use of their available space. Some of those surveyed believed that there was an opportunity to use artificial intelligence to book and use meeting rooms more effectively.
“AI can release individuals from routine, repetitive tasks at work and free them up for more value-adding and enriching activities. That’s why it is likely to play an important role in meeting room booking software,” said Peter Otto, Chief Product Officer at Condeco.
Businesses are only just beginning to realise the extent to which the need for co-workers to meet in person is a thing of the past, as new conferencing systems enable teams to maintain real-time collaboration and conversation across vast distances and multiple time zones.
“Ultimately new technology will enable businesses to allocate their resources and time more effectively,” said Otto. “There is also a role it can play in gathering data, but companies need to be aware of the ethical and privacy aspects of using it in this way and be prepared to be fully transparent in communicating what they are doing to their employees.”
UK leaders face up to an uncertain future
While a fifth of business leaders worldwide (22 per cent) said that uncertainty was a concern for them, more than one third of British business leaders (35 per cent) echoed this. The greater uncertainty felt by UK business leaders is possibly linked to the survey taking place at the height of Brexit uncertainty, a situation which remains unresolved.
The second most-common concern for UK respondents is regulation and compliance (34 per cent), suggesting that businesses are expecting these to be major issues over the next year. Looking ahead to the next five years, UK respondents again raised uncertainty as their core concern (38 per cent), compared to a quarter of leaders overall who were worried by uncertainty over the next five years (24 per cent).