Is the UK shifting towards a mobile workforce?

13th March 2012

Despite fares rising by an average of 5.9% in January, passenger numbers rose 6% in the year to March to surpass 1.4 billion. However, more fare rises are on the cards given the Government estimating it will take until 2019 to achieve its target of cutting £3.5bn a year from industry running costs.

So what will the impact be?

Some commuters may be pleased to learn that part of the Government's strategy to ease overcrowding involves trying to convince employers to adopt "flexible working hours", allowing them to travel at less congested times, reports The Times.

Given many of us start the day stressed from the commute, this is welcome news. Do you endure a stint on an overcrowded train every morning? Or if you drive, do you wish you had cycled? If you cycle, do you wish you had walked? And so it goes on, until you arrive at work exhausted – and cursing the cost of public transport on top of the degradation involved.

So why isn't the UK working on ways to reduce the impact on this?  

Technology and flexible working

Millions of us are doing jobs that could be carried out just as well at home – and the future is set to take advantage of a more mobile workforce.

Of course, employees must be able to access email, the internet, documents and other content from any location – which, these days, they can with the likes of Apple and Microsoft on the case. Broadband speeds are only getting zippier, and few people are without internet access in their homes these days. There is little problem with staying connected.

The stage seems set for a working revolution – so why aren't we working from home?

After all, home workers reduce the need for expensive premises – and they are often far more productive with fewer distractions.

And it encourages diversity, and a range of talent, bringing in those who have difficulty travelling because they are disabled or live in remote locations – then there's the reduction in pollution and greenhouse gases. What's not to love?

Perhaps it's partly because office managers are worried about losing their mini empires. If bosses can't see what their employees are doing, how will they know that they are working? Of course there's always the need for face-to-face meetings, but conference calls and the rise of Skype makes this simple.

It appears the issues are often human, rather than technological. For hundreds of years we've been in an environment where people get together in the same place with a manager overseeing them.

But, of course, it's partly myth that you have control over what your people do just because they sit in the same location. Most managers who are worried about this kind of thing actually sit in their offices and rarely interact with their people.

So what might the future look like?

According to a survey by recruitment specialists Office Angels reported on, it's expected that by 2036 millions of employees will work from home or other remote locations – dealing with co-workers, customers and suppliers via computers and video phones.

Almost three quarters of workers believe that an increasing number of people will work from home by then, thanks to new technologies such as cloud computing, smart phones and video conferencing – a quarter even believe that the office will no longer exist.

So will it be goodbye to 9 to 5? Working routines are predicted to change dramatically; almost two thirds of employees believe that working hours will become far more flexible and over half predict that standard working hours will be a thing of the past altogether.

Around 69% of workers also think that people will interact more with technology than they will with each other, due to the predicted dominance of remote working on a global scale.

…taking an entrepreneurial approach to business

Future Work makes the link between leading thinking about 'smart' or 'agile' working and other leading edge thinking about the changing nature of organisations. 

This envisions a world where employees either become entrepreneurs themselves, or become more like entrepreneurs in the way they control, manage and initiate work.

At the heart of this lies a cultural expectation that if you work full-time, most of us do it in an office. But perhaps managers need to develop new strategies for changing times to keep their teams happily working together.


More from Mindful Money:

Mad Men 2.0 – Media, Marketing and Money

How super-computers will make the City obsolete

Apple storms ahead – but is it unstoppable?

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