The UK is on the verge of a mobile working tipping point, with academics predicting more than half the organisations in the UK will have adopted it by 2017.
This figure will rise to over 70% by 2020, according to a report by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation and Citrix: Working anywhere: a winning formula for good work?
It surveyed 500 managers from medium and large firms on the subject. “We conclude that the tipping point in terms of mobile working is imminent. There is now an established trend for adoption by organisations and also intensification of use by those who have already adopted,” said the report.
“The evidence is showing a clear trend towards a more flexible way of working in the UK as the hurdles are overcome by fresh innovations in technology and people management,” said report author and director of the Work Foundation Dr Cathy Garner. “We believe that employees and their employers will benefit from the ‘virtuous circle’ created, whereby improved job design, work organisation and trusting relationships lead to healthier, happier and more productive workplaces.”
The Foundation named improved productivity, employee well-being, talent acquisition & retention and reduced accommodation costs as clear reasons for businesses to embrace flexibility. It said employees are used to using smartphones in their daily lives and will demand the same flexibility at work.
However, survey respondents overwhelmingly identified the HR burden and manager challenges inherent in the transition.
Three quarters of managers said implementing flexible working will be a challenge for their organisation, with 84% saying performance management changes will be needed and 82% citing the need for changes to employment terms and conditions.
More than a third of managers (37%) believe implementing mobile working will mean they work longer hours and 22% said they would feel disconnected from their team, while 28% felt it could make it hard for them to oversee work. On the other hand, 44% said mobile working allows them to do more work and 35% said it was essential for their work-life balance.
Jacqueline de Rojas, VP for Northern Europe at Citrix, said we are on the cusp of real change. “Creating a more balanced and productive workforce requires a change of expectations from employers – taking the focus away from physical presence in an office and instead placing the emphasis on delivery, productivity and trust,” she said.
The study urged organisations to lead cultural change in which employees are measured on outputs; take a new approach to people policies; and plan carefully for new ways of working and technology.
Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School said: “A successful mobile working strategy will incorporate a mix of influences – cultural, social, personal, technical and economic – and its adoption can only be enabled, and must never be enforced by an organisation. By enabling a culture whereby working anywhere is the rule – rather than the exception – employers immediately put trust at the heart of their company ethos – a key to providing a happier and more fulfilling relationship with its staff.
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