Flexible working expectations rising, shows Polycom survey

Widespread adoption of telecoms technology has given rise to greater expectations of flexible working, according to a survey from Polycom

The increase of technology adoption in the UK is heightening office workers’ expectations of flexible working, according to a survey from Polycom.

Conducted by Redshift Research, the survey of 1,000 UK professionals found employees' views on how work should fit into their lifestyle is changing, due to the increase of technology that allows flexible working.

The results found that, over that last decade, the number of employees working from home has doubled, from 21% to 40%. The report attributes this to the growing number of employers offering flexible working arrangements. 

For example, the number of employers offering flexible working arrangements to parents has jumped from 28% to 44%.

A quarter of UK office workers would still prefer their working hours to better fit around their lifestyle. The main reasons are to fit in with partners or children, or to avoid commuting to the office.

According to the survey, the trend is driven by the increase of communications technology used by businesses, allowing employees to communicate in a different way. The increased use of email and social media means face-to-face meetings and phones calls have declined. The use of laptops among office workers has almost tripled over the last ten years, reaching 46% in 2012.

Mobile phone usage has doubled and one in ten respondents now use a tablet at work. Video conferencing adoption has also seen an increase. Ten years ago, 26% of office workers used video conferencing. This figure now stands at 42%.

Gary Rider, president at Polycom EMEA, said: “Flexible working arrangements benefit everyone: employees who want a better work/life balance; businesses who would enjoy a more productive workforce; and the UK economy that needs to reduce the £8bn annual spend on congestion.

“With collaboration technologies empowering people to work from anywhere and on any device, nothing should stop employers from embracing the new ways of working.”

Matthew Ball, director of enterprise at analyst firm Canalys, said employees are demanding more flexibility and choice. This trend will lead to significant changes in work practices over the next ten years.

“Based on current trends and changes in working culture, almost all information workers will have the option of remote working by 2022, with the main means of communication being social media and video conferencing via mobile devices,” said Ball.  

Ball predicts that some workers with be targeted on delivering results with the flexibility of choosing which days and hours they work.

“As a result, the concept of a ‘weekend’ and ‘working hours’ will be less mainstream,” he said.

The survey also  found nearly one in five office workers would move away from urban areas if they had the choice of flexible working. This suggests UK employers would have a bigger pool of candidates if more offered flexible working options.

Ball added: “A person’s physical location will stop being an important criterion for employers and this will give people greater choice about where they would like to live, based on personal preferences. 

"There will be more opportunities to be employed by more than one organisation, for example acting as independent consultants for companies all over the country.”

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