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Business success in the digital economy: re-define “work” and look beyond the office

(Image credit: Pixabay)
(Image credit: Image credit: Pixabay)

Outdated working practices can be costly for UK organisations. Cities across the UK suffer from chaotic traffic and delayed public transportation every day – wasting valuable time for commuters, impacting their productivity and affecting the bottom line for businesses. Recent research on the impact of congestion in 2018 revealed that London and Birmingham ranked as the worst cities in the UK for time lost due to congestion, reaching 227 hours and 134 hours lost per driver in each city respectively. Across the country, traffic issues cost the UK billions each year, due to a combination of fuel usage, pollution, impacted health and lost work hours.

Beyond congestion, employee productivity and therefore business success can also be compromised by natural catastrophes. Climate researchers warn that due to climate change, the impact of extreme weather conditions will increase. In addition to annual travel disruption caused by snow and ice, the UK has seen severe weather conditions caused by the likes of Storm Gareth and Storm Hannah, making it more difficult for commuters to reach their physical workplaces and severely impacting business productivity.

Traffic congestion and wider transport disruption are impacting the bottom line for companies today, but this does not need to be the case. Technological developments are enabling a new concept of work. In today’s digital economy, organisations must embrace a shift in mindset where work is no longer somewhere we go, but something that we do, no matter the location or time zone. By enabling employees to work flexibly – from any location, at any time and with any device – employers can increase productivity by giving staff ways to balance their business tasks with their personal lives. 

The end of the traditional office?

Some companies are already reaping the rewards of flexible working practices, from a more motivated and engaged workforce to greater productivity. These businesses are simultaneously improving work-life balance for staff while making themselves more resilient. By focusing on location-independent work, they can limit the impact of issues such as extreme weather conditions or even a major event overburdening local traffic infrastructure and causing delays. 

Despite the evolution of technology to enable this new way of working, a report from Lancaster University’s Work Foundation last year revealed that seven in ten office-based workers in the UK were still not given the opportunity to work remotely or away from their usual workplace. In fact, less than one in ten UK workers believed remote and flexible working is ‘actively encouraged’ by their organisation, while almost a third claimed their organisation still restricts flexible working to certain job roles and levels.

To achieve the desired level of business agility in today’s market, more decisions must be made in real-time – or at least as quickly as possible. As a result, staff need to be able to work anywhere, anytime, and with any device. Against this backdrop, traditional office work is quickly becoming outdated. The 9-5 office-centred concept of work is increasingly unsuited to the demands of both the business and the workforce. Organisations must look to make changes which reflect the new definition of "work" – one that focuses on agility by combining digital workflows with intelligent workspaces.

Redefining “work” to create a more agile business

Establishing a more agility-focused workspace strategy requires organisations to define business processes as a first step. This ensures that both employees and the company will benefit from a more flexible approach to work. Following this, companies should look to restructure their work environment for as many lines of business as possible – from IT and HR to real estate. This transition will ideally need to find a balance between remote and on-site work. For instance, regular on-site team meetings have been proven important for team building and can often help to ensure that off-site workers feel well informed. 

Following these steps, organisations should look to deploy an intelligent workspace solution. By giving employees secure access to all the apps, data, and other resources they need, they can work from the location that best suits them using a device of their choice – ranging from company-owned or personal mobile devices to home office PCs and laptops. Staff recognise the benefits of deploying the right technology: the same research from Lancaster University’s Work Foundation found that 69 percent of employees in the UK see a direct link between the technology provided to them in their line of work and their productivity levels, while two-thirds of managers see a correlation between technology and their wider organisation’s performance.

Today, state-of-the-art digital workspace solutions benefit both IT and staff. They can provide performance-enhanced connectivity via a WiFi or mobile phone connection, give IT teams all the required tools to optimise remote access, and employ machine learning to monitor the environment continuously for performance and potential security issues. Additionally, this technology enables quick and simple employee on- and off-boarding as well as a user-friendly self-service app store. In this way, employees are able to adapt their experience to their individual needs in a familiar, consumer-friendly way.

The war for talent

The ability to offer a state-of-the-art workplace is a huge advantage when looking to attract and retain talent. Those companies that have embraced this new way to work should take advantage of their newly-achieved – or improved – workplace flexibility in their recruitment drive. For potential employees looking to achieve the right work-life balance or any millennials entering the workforce, workspace flexibility is a must-have when looking at potential employment options.

Implementing a workspace strategy that shifts from the “traditional office” towards agile digital work offers a multitude of benefits for both employers and employees. By enabling remote work through intelligent workspaces, organisations can boost both productivity and employee motivation while improving business resilience and becoming more competitive in the war for talent. Those enterprises failing to think outside the box – or rather, outside the office – will quickly fall behind in today’s digital economy. 

Darren Fields is Managing Director, UK & Ireland, Citrix