Polycom Survey Reveals Flexible Working On the Rise

Workers want more flexibility

Video comms specialist Polycom has released a survey on flexible working, taking in the views and habits of 24,000 respondents. Can technology really deliver the flexible working solutions to deliver direct business benefits?

A global survey taking in the views of 24,000 workers unearths the ‘need’ for flexibility in the workplace in order for businesses to thrive, claims Ploycom.

The maker of video conferencing and comms kit argues that productivity and teamwork are both significantly improved when employees can choose where they work.

The survey commissioned by Polycom Inc. was conducted by Morar Consulting, using data collected from 25,234 respondents of 12 countries, which included: United States, Canada, Brazil, Japan, United Kingdom, India, Singapore, Germany, Russia, France, Australia and China. 55% of those surveyed had job titles managers or above. 58% of surveyed are responsible for care in some capacity and 68% surveyed are parents.

There is a stigma that remote workers are disconnected from the rest of the team, yet this study proves that they are more sociable and proactively reach out to develop strong relationships

“We predicted that 2016 would be the ‘year of video’ and it’s satisfying to know that people are really seeing the benefits of working this way,” says Jim Kruger, CMO of Polycom, “The survey results also tell us that businesses need to offer video collaboration tools to enable the human contact that people crave. Organisations that are able to offer flexible working practices and the right collaboration tools will be the winners in recruiting and retaining top talent.”

Now of course there is a large slice of ‘they would say that wouldn’t they’ here, but it’s hard to argue against the idea that allowing workers quicker ways to collaborate no matter where they are will speed up and improve communication and potential; at least deliver real business benefits.

Three key trends are said to have come from the exercise. The vast majority of respondents (98%) agree that an ‘anywhere working’ approach boosts productivity, as people can choose to work where they are most efficient. 92% of respondents also agree that video collaboration technology improves teamwork.

Meeting colleagues via video helps keep the human interaction element that can sometimes lack when working remotely, enabling employees to develop better relationships. The survey also says that 62% of the global working population is working flexibly, a higher number than ever before.

66% of millennials are worried that they aren’t perceived as hard-working when they are not in the office. This would seem to suggest that many firms still frown or at least are suspicious of home or remote working

The switch to digital technology is of course driving all of this; operational activities that were simply not possible before or were very difficult are now relatively easy, so up to a point lots of the activity here is simply moving to new forms of communications and habits. The key to value however, has to be identifying exactly where the actual business benefits are, and delivering them to firms. Part of this is in attracting and retaining staff who expect and indeed need these forms of communication to work effectively.

The UK is one of the countries that has seen more people embrace a flexible working approach. According to the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, in May 2012 only 20% of UK workers worked from home regularly and only 14% benefited from remote working. Polycom’s survey shows there has been change in working habits since then; at the end of 2016, 64% of UK workers were working flexibly on a regular basis. Another important development is the shift in attitudes towards flexible working: in 2012, two thirds of firms offered flexible working benefits to parents only. Now, 80% of companies in the UK offer flexible working benefits to all employees, according to Polycom’s survey.

98% agree that an ‘anywhere working’ approach boosts productivity, as people can choose to work where they are most efficient

The survey suggests that British workers are increasingly focused on getting a good work-life balance, with 75% of those surveyed highlighting a key benefit of anywhere working was getting their work-life balance under control. Commuting is also a big source of stress that UK employees would rather avoid: 30% of those surveyed listed ‘not commuting’ as the number one benefit of working flexibly.

Jeanne Meister, partner at Future Workplace, an organisation which assists businesses in re-imagining their workplaces, says: “There is a stigma that remote workers are disconnected from the rest of the team, yet this study proves that they are more sociable and proactively reach out to develop strong relationships. The new technology tools that enable communication and collaboration are actually motivating workers to pick up the phone, seek face time and create lasting bonds. This is the upside of remote work we rarely talk about.”

British workers are increasingly focused on getting a good work-life balance, with 75% of those surveyed highlighting a key benefit of anywhere working was getting their work-life balance under control

Another interesting finding from the survey was that 66% of millennials are worried that they aren’t perceived as hard-working when they are not in the office. This would seem to suggest that many firms still frown or at least are suspicious of home or remote working.

Polycom argues that this culture will need to change if firms are to remain competitive and attract and retain employees. It is argued by Polycom that a culture where hours in the office are regarded less important than targets or outputs reached is the next natural development in the work and an approach that will pay dividends.