The recent bad weather has created significant problems for many people trying to get to work, and as a result many businesses have struggled to maintain their operations. This in turn has had implications for their financial performance, with reports of the UK economy losing billions during the heavy snow earlier this month. But are these problems really still insurmountable, or just a symptom of an old-fashioned workforce that can’t compete with those businesses that have embraced the new technological solutions out there?
While the weather has certainly been extreme, it has highlighted the need for organisations to understand how their employees travel to work and on business, and then to help their employees to work smarter. Many businesses have shown that they can keep operating in extreme conditions through the application of smarter working technologies, and it is these businesses that will not be suffering the consequences of the snow disruption.
As well as ensuring that employees can work remotely from the office in extreme events, smarter working can reduce the time and expense of everyday travel to work and business travel, and thereby increase organisational efficiency and improve staff wellbeing.
At Colin Buchanan we are all made aware of forecast snow (as if we could escape it on the news) and our HR and IT systems allow us to work remotely so that no time is wasted through ‘snow days’. Any time not spent working due to transport disruptions must be taken as annual leave. Whilst this initially seemed harsh, it has actually helped develop a culture where homeworking is accepted in our everyday working styles as well as during one-off events. Homeworking is seen as a productive way to meet an approaching deadline without the distractions of the office, and flexible working is a way to work full hours and manage family or academic commitments. This can then lead organisations towards hotdesking in order to reduce overheads. As in many forward-looking workplaces, sitting at your own desk 5 days a week is not a pre-requisite for doing the job.
In order to embrace smarter working, a workplace needs to make two significant advancements. Firstly, investing in new technology e.g. videoconferencing equipment and remote secure access to servers, and secondly making appropriate policy, allowing staff flexible working options such as flexitime and condensed working weeks or a nine day fortnight. For many organisations, this will challenge their more traditional ways of working, but the results will be well worth the initial investment and change in culture.
Aside from the benefits to the employee, reduced travel to work through implementation of smarter working practices offers a number of operational and financial benefits to employers, including:
- reduced cost of providing, maintaining and managing staff car parking
- reduced fuel costs of fleet vehicles
- lower business travel claims
- less office space required resulting in lower rents and running costs
- increased productivity; meetings held by tele and video conference are often more focussed
- a happier, supported workforce leading to reduced staff turnover
- reduced carbon footprint and improved CSR credentials
In an increasingly competitive economic environment, for organisations considering how they can reduce costs and improve efficiency to stay ahead, smarter working practices could play a crucial role.