News Analysis

Flexible working key to workplace of 2016

By 2016, many businesses will operate as co-operatives of independent contractors rather than maintain a permanent workforce.

This is the one of four future scenarios depicted in “The way to work:
space, place and technology in 2016” – a report from the Orange Future Enterprise coalition (OFEc).

Greater flexibility in where, when and how staff work will characterise the workplace of 2016 and determine competitiveness.

The first scenario, “disciples of the cloud”, mirrors the typical workplace today, with employers controlling where and when people work and retaining control over intellectual property.

Companies that follow the “electronic cottages” path will allow workers the freedom to choose where, when and how they work, but still cling onto all intellectual property rights.

The real change begins with the third category “replicants” where businesses depend on specialist consultants and their intellectual property. Work is less predictable and reliable and workers have free rein to work how, when and where they like.

Taking flexibility to its extreme, the fourth scenario “mutual worlds”
describes a situation where businesses operate as co-operatives of independent contractors. Workers retain intellectual property and they focus on small local ventures, which can be connected to similar small ventures.

“The rate of change can be intimidating, but it creates opportunities. The challenge is asserting some control so businesses can use the situation to their advantage,” says Robert Ainger, founder member of OFEc.


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