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As Business Leaders Call for Greater Flexible Working, Has the Digital Workplace’s Time Come?

By Sharon ODea | Small Business

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph today, an influential group of business leaders in the UK argue that flexible working can boost business as well as benefit employees, if correctly implemented.

They commented “Flexible working has been too narrowly characterised as a benefit for employees and a cost for employers. This runs contrary to our experience: if implemented successfully by business leaders, workforce agility can offer sustainable business performance and engaged employees”.

We’re encouraged to see a renewed focus on mobility and agility, and a recognition of the benefits they deliver. But this focus brings with it increased demands on intranet practitioners to deliver the digital workplaces that are needed to support more agile ways of working.

The group, called the Agile Future Forum, have published a report, Understanding the economic benefits of agility, based on a number of in-depth case studies across all sectors of the economy. This found businesses which move to agile working typically generate value of 3-13% of their workforce costs, though becoming more responsive to fluctuations in demands, reducing overheads and retaining talent.

The digital workplace has a vital role to play in realising those business benefits. By moving information and services online, successful companies enable their staff to work from any location, and almost any device, so that work becomes what you do, not where you go.

Great digital workplaces support more flexible working, helping employees to be more productive, connected and collaborative. That, in turn, reduces costs, improves efficiency – and makes employees happier and healthier.

Historically, corporate intranets have provided communications, information, and the tools people need to do their jobs. The intranet remains the single point of entry for corporate systems and content, but has grown to include social platforms and business systems as part of the broader digital workplace.

But as organisations recognise the value of more flexible ways of working, the demands on the digital workplace grow, so that it needs to support:

  • Staff who are increasingly away from their desks, but still need to be connected and productive.
  • The shift away from command-and-control business models, to more flexible and collaborative ways of working
  • Increasing competitive pressures that demand streamlined and simplified business processes
  • Greater requirements for knowledge and information sharing across organisational silos

As a result of these changes, the intranet becomes just one digital tool used by staff. In this expanded digital workplace, staff use multiple access points – mobiles, tablets and desktop applications – as well as social tools and integrated business tools and systems.

The result is a productive business environment that takes full advantage of new technologies and working practices, enabling businesses to realise the financial benefits of an agile workforce.

And what are those advantages?

Experience from those who have implemented a flexible workplace, supported by a good digital workplace, shows a range of tangible benefits.

  • Giving people the space and quiet to work as they wish can lead to increased productivity – away from distractions and stress in the office. Stanford University’s Does working from home work? study found those who worked from home were 13% more productive than those who worked in an office
  • Real Estate costs decrease by approximately 20% – organisations typically save around £5,000 per employee in real estate costs
  • At the same time, becoming more flexible enables companies to offer a better work-life balance, enabling them to attract and retain staff
  • Studies show employees who work flexibly take less sick leave and stuffer less frequently from stress
  • The greenhouse gas emissions from companies adopting a flexible work place model decreases, as people commute less, and travel less

Given the potential for some serious return on investment, it’s no surprise that mobility is top of the agenda for digital workplace professionals this year. In this year’s Digital Workplace Trends report, Jane McConnell found over a third of organisations considered mobility to be their highest investment priority for the year ahead.

Those business leaders who make up the Agile Future Forum believe creating an agile workforce has helped them to compete in the global market, and are calling on other businesses to do the same. With support for flexible and mobile working on the rise, the time has never been better for the digital workplace to shine.

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