As the recent string of positive news has shown, the economy is on the mend. But behind that rosy picture, the fact remains that UK productivity levels still fall well short of our G7 peers: 5% below our own pre-recession levels and 25% below the G7 average.
Today, on the 9th annual National Work from Home Day, it is important to remember that a major reason for that gap is a failure to take advantage of technology that can help us work smarter – from anywhere – instead of harder.
As a company at the forefront of many of the technologies that have made smarter working possible, O2 has long been an advocate for companies to adopt flexible working practices – and of course we do our best to lead by example.
In 2012, we conducted the UK's largest-ever flexible working pilot by asking the entire 2,500 strong workforce based at our Slough headquarters to work away from the office for the day. The results didn't just meet our expectations, they exceeded them.
The initiative transformed the way we work together, whether that's in the office or remotely. All O2 offices are now set up for flexible and smarter working, and O2 employees are provided with the connectivity, applications and hardware to work from wherever they need to.
Creating a culture that enables smarter working was the biggest challenge we faced, but as we've grown more confident working with our colleagues no matter where they happen to be based, we've found that we're happier, more productive people.
We have also made gains in our sustainability and efficiency programmes, and smarter working has helped us attract and retain talent, as we can cast our net more widely in searching for the best people and offer them a better working environment when they get here.
The technology for smarter working exists and is easily available to businesses of all sizes. As a nation, we're simply not taking full advantage of it.
Despite many endorsing the benefits of smart, connected technology, research we conducted with the Centre for Economic Business Research earlier this year suggests that four out of five British businesses say their employees still don't have full access to key systems which allow them to work away from the office. Because of failures like these, the economy is missing out on a staggering £30 billion each year.
This is a wake-up call. For the UK to prosper and British citizens to benefit, organisations across the public and private sector must recognise that harnessing digital ways of operating is central to our long-term economic prosperity – and that starts with smarter working.
- Ben Dowd is Business Director at O2