Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the ‘always-on’ age where fixed working hours and a static working place are now relics of the dusty past. Some say it’s a cutting-edge advancement in response to today’s hunger for instant gratitude while others accredit it to a nostalgic step back into our pre-industrial history. But whatever your stance on this new flexible way of working, it’s an undeniable fact that modern technology is having a colossal part to play in the process.
This time last year the government was announcing new legislations that would mean all employees would be given the right to request flexible working hours. Previously this luxury had only been afforded to carers or those who were looking after children but as of June 2014, we were all granted the option to mould our working week. Deputy Prime Minister at the time Nick Clegg said that “modern businesses know that flexible working boost productivity and staff morale” and claimed that it was “about time we brought working practices bang up-to-date with the needs, and choices, of our modern families”.
Millennials are on the frontline of the revolution as they made their first steps onto the career ladder in the wake of a crippling recession and are subsequently hyper-aware of the need to make ends meet. A Millennial Report carried out in 2013 revealed that 45% of Generation Y will favour workplace flexibility over pay, so we can only imagine what these figures would look like now.
This innate fear has pushed the new professional generation to clock up extra hours, work multiple jobs, rely on freelance side projects or even jump straight into the deep waters of self-employment. Not that they need much encouragement. Many job specifications today actually require applicants to agree to weekend and evening work as well as extra ad hoc hours. Jobs also requires a far more varied skillset than they once did and often encompass more than one role which, in turn, demands more time.
Even spatial divisions have been shifted to accommodate these new practices. Cities used to be built in a way that separated the commercial and residential districts but with the increasing number of home offices and remote modes of work, this setup is fast becoming a redundant concept. This blurring of spatial boundaries has also consequently lead to the erosion of the temporal structuring we were once accustomed to as we stumbled into work for 9am sharp and left at 5pm and not a minute after.
During a recent Intelligent Cities UnConference, American real estate agent Adam Stoltz made an extremely interesting point. He suggested that the obvious dissolution of the 9-5 working model was less of an evolutionary process and more of a homage to our pre-industrial past. Stoltz proposed that what is actually going on here is a return to the way we worked before the Industrial Revolution, to a time when shopkeepers lived above the units they owned and worked in. Whether you agree with Stoltz or favour a more forward-thinking outlook, it’s with no doubt that today’s technology is egging on our collective breakdown of the traditional 8-hour day.
With 72% of workers polled in a Regus survey saying fixed hours no longer fulfil their professional duties, it comes as no surprise that we are living in a world where technological devices are constantly buzzing. The rise of smartphones and increased Wi-Fi access means we are able to work from anywhere and everywhere. Eating a Big Mac or waiting in a queue at the bank, portable devices and super-speed internet connection means we can whip out our phones or tablets and continue going about our business. Even buses offer free Wi-Fi these days meaning we can tot up extra hours on our working day by using our commute time productively. We can even wear our high-tech devices now, which is just another great leap for mankind towards totally obliterating the 9-5 working model.
Cloud software is another of today’s technological offerings and is instrumental in supporting the growing number of employees working remotely. Cloud facilities like our own bookkeeping service Pandle mean data, documents and records are all available at the touch of button, from anywhere that provides an internet connection. This means that the 39% of workers who said flexible working would make them more loyal to the business in a recent Unify poll are afforded the luxury of flexibility through eradicating the need for paperwork and desk files. We all know that satisfied employees make for a well-oiled business so it’s becoming increasingly important for companies to get on board with this new way of working.