Things tend to work in cycles. What was once new and shiny, soon becomes old when something newer and shinier comes along. Take the iPod. Once it was the most groundbreaking piece of technology in the music consumption world. Now it is almost forgotten, a relic of a pre-smartphone age where the iPod Nano ruled the word, and you needed a separate digital camera to take a decent picture. Soon the smartphone will go the same way. The world keeps on turning.
However, the modern workplace does not seem to be on this cycle. The iPod equivalent, the Baby Boomers and Millennials, are hanging on, and are in fact still having a discernible impact on business success. Meanwhile the new and shiny Generation Z are entering the workplace, but they are not replacing the older generations. Not yet anyway. Instead they are all making up a multigenerational workforce. This has meant there has been a major shift in management and operations.
It is therefore important for management to be flexible, and understand that not everyone on their staff works in the same way, or wants the same things. The makeup of the workplace must reflect this.
The New Ways of Working (NWoW) is an initiative looking to boost flexibility and retention, largely by removing many of the barriers and management styles of the past and bringing them into line with a modern multigenerational workforce.
Not surprisingly, Local Authorities are amongst those who most require a change in approach being one of the largest employers, with some employing in excess of 31,000 staff. This has led to a number of these authorities taking a closer look at the potential behind flexible working methods, with a number of initiatives and developments taking place. For example:
- The opening of telecentres for their staff
- Some have agreed a collective arrangement on home-based working
- Desk-sharing is increasingly on the agenda. Many authorities are committed to an office accommodation strategy based on a 3:4 ratio – or in other words, three desk places for every four people.
The main objectives of these changes is to consolidate offices, enabling them to improve and ‘right size’ the estate, keep costs down and enable staff to work more flexibly, with the overriding intention of the initiative being to increase the densities of workstations in the retained buildings. This allows staff assigned to these buildings to increase the space efficiency and overall utilisation.
In theory, this would seem to be straightforward. In reality though, as is often the case, the situation is far more complex. Take the impact that this change would have on older members of the workforce. Many Baby Boomers have been working for the same company for many years, and have therefore worked in the same place and in the same way. These are considerations that management and business leaders need to take into consideration, when bringing in major changes. Be sensitive, listen and do not isolate those that have been loyal to you and have contributed to your success.
The NWoW initiative enables staff to work anywhere (including home or even their local coffee shop!), at any time and with no prior pre-booking system, and no dedicated reception worker on hand. Staff just introduce themselves upon arrival and are given the appropriate system password to access the company network meaning that they have access to all areas.
And it is already seeing success. Upon conclusion of one such project, an evaluation confirmed that there had been significant benefits in adopting the new system, stating that “the use of the previously overcrowded Local Office dropped by 34% and with gains in productivity allowing the average office-based time to drop by 7 hours per week.”
Alongside this increase in productivity, employees also see an improvement in work/life balance. The system in place and increased flexibility means that they are also coping with their workload more easily, meaning working overtime is kept to a minimum. This in turn leads to enhanced job satisfaction, and therefore a willingness to “do well” for the organisation. This interest in the success of the business, can not only help their development within the organisation but also to the greater benefit of the company as a whole. There is increased trust and therefore a feeling of being valued. In that regard, the workforce is very much like a cycle. If your employees are motivated, the business does well, and the workforce sees the benefits. And NWoW can be at the very centre of this circle of success.