Skyscrapers are, to many of us, what makes a bustling city. These buildings are odes to corporate life and the image of scores of people, clutching their takeaway coffees, being swallowed up by revolving doors and taken by lift to their cubical office on the 15th floor is emblazoned on our minds, thanks to multiple movies about work life.
While many companies still prefer to have people come into the office from 8am-5pm each day, Monday to Friday, some employers are embracing the trend of employees working remotely, whether from home or a “coffice” (coffee shop usually with unlimited Wi-Fi and a set-up amenable to working). The development of faster internet and virtual connection spaces for meeting (Skype, Google hangouts) make working remotely or “telecommuting” easier. In addition, the evolution of the “knowledge economy” where people work on ideas and information, rather than in factory assembly lines, means that a big office building is no longer absolutely necessary.
Telecommuting is not the only signifier of a changing workplace. This, together with another rising employee trend, will be explored in this blog.
Working remotely to improve employee productivity
There are hundreds of productivity tricks and tips (scroll through any App store on your phone), and working from home, or close by, can be added to the mix to improve output. A survey done in America reveals that only seven percent of office workers feel they are productive at their workplace desks. In South Africa, it can be similarly said that a long, and even harrowing commute to work makes workers tired and less efficient. Then, employees don’t feel like they get important “life” things done (sort out their car licenses, get their child vaccinated) because they are bound to strict office hours’ protocol. Yet, working remotely and having a greater work/life balance drives productivity because employees are happier. Employees are seen as people, rather than cogs in a wheel, and are trusted to “get it done.”
Managing employee freedom needn’t be painful
Of course, there will be those who take advantage of the freedom afforded to them and employers will wonder if their liberal policies make business sense. Nothing is perfect, but there can be systems in place to maintain a working remotely programme: a daily conference call, a quarterly team-building retreat, a team “WhatsApp” group can all aid a more cohesive workforce in the absence of daily physical interactions. It may also help to have a time management workshop twice a year, or motivational talks on self-discipline.
A blended workforce
Since the global economic downturn in 2008/2009, companies have had to reduce costs and reimagine their business models. Human Resource departments have had to be especially imaginative in cutting huge salary bills. Hiring freelancers and contractors, in addition to having full-time staff, is known as a blended workforce and is an emerging workplace trend. Freelancers add value to companies because they are often motivated individuals who produce good work, knowing they don’t have the security of steady and salaried income.
There are many studies predicting the workplace of the future. Perhaps it’s time to start slowly and embrace a few trends.