UK firms may be lagging those of other nations in offering flexible working

The UK lags behind other nations in the shift to remote and flexible working, putting more emphasis on effective meetings to coordinate scattered teams, a new report, ‘The Modern Workplace 2018: People, Places & Technology’ by software company Condeco has found. The research claims that across the world workers are in the midst of a shift to flexible and remote working – spending more time working from home, on the move or from multiple locations. However, the UK is significantly behind in embracing these trends, which could negatively affect worker satisfaction as well as holding back firms who are competing for the best international staff.

In two fifths of businesses surveyed, the majority of staff work flexibly at least some of the time. This figure is higher in the US (52 percent) and Australia (43 percent). In the UK, the figure is 37 percent and 10 percent of companies don’t offer flexible working at all. Of those that do, 30 percent said that fewer than a quarter of their staff work flexibly, compared with 21 percent globally.

The research also found that the Millennial generation, born between 1983 and 2000, have shaped the workplace to meet their needs. That means a space that is more open plan, with fewer barriers between desks and multi-disciplinary teams working together in ‘pods’. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said they work in open plan, or mostly open plan, offices. The UK is more likely to have embraced open plan working than many other countries, with more than half (51 percent) of UK companies in the survey saying their workplace is open plan, compared with 43 percent globally.

This marks a significant change from previous generations, for example the cubicle office of Generation X or the personal offices of the Baby Boomers. The oldest members of Generation Z – born between the mid-1990s and 2000s – are now entering the workforce and they will likely move further towards flexibility, remote worker, and cross-functional teams with less hierarchy.

“This report demonstrates how the modern workplace is changing,” said Peter Otto, Product Strategy and Design Director at Condeco. “Flexibility and remote working are increasingly important to today’s workers. The companies that are prepared for those workers will be able to attract the most talented candidates, both from the UK and internationally.”

The shift to flexible and remote working puts more emphasis on meetings to coordinate teams, who may be spread across a wide area but still need to be in close communication. This is highlighted by the report finding that workers are more likely to feel that there are too few meetings, rather than too many

Two-fifths of business leaders worldwide report an increase in video conference meetings, as teams coordinate over long distances. In the UK, that figure is 34 per cent. However, 12 per cent of global respondents said the quality of meetings should be better. In the UK, 13 per cent of respondents said the same.

Unfortunately, the report shows that British companies struggle to provide enough meeting rooms when they are needed. And when meeting rooms are available, the quality of those rooms could be better, the research found. Globally, fewer than half of business leaders (47 per cent) say staff have always have access to the right types of rooms, a figure that falls to 38 per cent in the UK.

“Meetings have a bad reputation as time-wasters but it’s important that companies understand that this is not necessarily the case. Effective collaboration is essential for the success of every organisation.” said Otto. “To remain effective, modern companies must ensure that they commit to providing a variety of spaces to help their teams communicate and collaborate, along with a fast and efficient way to find and reserve space, at any time, on any device.”

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