How to prepare for the flexible workplace of tomorrow

Employers must ensure their teams are fully equipped with the best technology if they are to effectively manage the cultural shift towards workplace flexibility

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Employers are increasingly turning to huddle rooms as new technologies give employees the freedom to work from anywhere

The workforce is getting ever more mobile. In the UK alone, two thirds of employees now work from home at least once a month. There is also a demographic change underway, as the representation of Millennials increases. In fact, Deloitte predicts this demographic will make up 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025.

This new generation of workers expects greater flexibility in the workplace, presenting CEOs, HR teams, board directors and IT departments with significant cultural and technological challenges. There have never been so many opportunities for international teams to collaborate and, as such, employers must reassess their current working cultures in order to facilitate the latest developments and increase employee productivity.

Digital dialogue
Here at Polycom, our research has found that younger demographics regard the ability to work flexibly as a means to be more productive. As technology has enabled us to work from anywhere – be it our homes or one of our company’s various office sites – the internal structure of our workplaces has evolved. This has been emphasised by a rise in the number of ‘huddle rooms’ – small spaces in which teams conduct audio and video conferences, as well as collaborate with colleagues from around the world in real time – adopted by companies in recent years.

Such structural changes mean employers need to better understand how their staff collaborate internally and externally, and facilitate those practices to ensure success. Polycom, for example, has found professionals will spend 30 hours per year on conference calls, while they will also take part in five virtual meetings per month. How many European organisations audit their staff and analyse these working habits, or formulate a coherent strategy around workplace flexibility? These are areas that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

The next generation
of managers wants to work efficiently, but less formally

With the capability to work and collaborate from anywhere in the world, we find ourselves increasingly inviting our colleagues into our homes, albeit virtually. Naturally, we relax in our own environment, adopting a less formal approach than we would in a traditional workspace.

Our research has shown Millennials to be the most comfortable when sharing these personal aspects of their lives, making them more adaptable when it comes to taking part in conference calls away from the office. Millennials are also better at multitasking during conference calls than their older peers, and find them to be more productive.

These are all considerations for employers that are seeking to adapt their working culture in the future; the next generation of managers wants to work efficiently, but less formally.

Unified approach
Creating a more agile workplace requires a joint operation between the HR and IT departments, as well as the support of executives. In large organisations in particular, change management is both a challenge and the key to achieving universal support. Local champions can really help to push modern working cultures and practices.

Notably, while there are key cultural differences in Europe, there appear to be no major distinctions within the workplace. Workplace flexibility is a hot topic throughout Europe, and one that international and multi-hub offices should be proactively developing to synchronise styles, output and company DNA.

Cultural change does not happen overnight, but the opportunity presented by an agile workplace – increased productivity, improved staff morale and reduced overheads – is critical to retaining staff and remaining competitive. As businesses and their employees adopt agile working styles, we all need to make sure that we draw clear boundaries. With the right culture, policies and technology in place, this should be easily achievable.