Will the ‘future of work’ make employees more productive?

The benefits of the future workplace are getting touted on all sides… but what won’t work out as anticipated?

artificially intelligent, robotic workers

“The workplace has always been a fluid concept, from factories and workshops, to offices and coffee shops,” says Paul Clarke, Head of UK at unified communications provider, 3CX. “This trend of a workplace being anything anywhere, according to the needs of the times, is set to continue – with the virtual office simply the next logical step.”

Over the last few years it has been impossible to ignore the rising tide of vendors, pundits and academics, all weighing in on the future of work. This covers a continuation of all the changes we’ve seen in recent years – from flexible working to consumer grade technology – and the promise of ever more personalized spaces when we are in the office. But can the reality ever really live up to the hype?

Well, first of all there are a lot of studies out there – mostly commissioned by vendors – which don’t necessarily yield the same results. Take ‘flexibility’ for example. Most of the initial evidence suggests that employees want the freedom to work where they choose, and if they get it, they do more work for the company. In management speak this is ‘empowerment’.

“Something that I think isn’t talked about nearly enough,” says Karen Field, CEO of Microsoft recruitment partner, Curo Talen “is the fact that the IT sector, which, by nature, should enable remote working, hasn’t moved away from the inflexible office environment.”

There are, of course, two key arguments here. The first is that workers forced into an office each day contain their work in a set location and try to keep productive in predetermined hours in order to get everything done. The converse side of this is that having flexibility means employees can more easily fit work around other aspects of their lives and therefore inclined to work harder for their company.

To support the latter theory, recent research from Robert Half suggests 44% of employees to get more work done and 42% feel “more trusted” if they are granted flexibility. Research from Timewise show that 87% of UK works would prefer a bit more freedom to choose where they work. While a study by FlexJobs  saw only 7% of employees describe their office as the best location for undertaking work-related projects.

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