Future vision of work patterns revealed

Employees could be rewarded by results rather than the number of hours worked and decide when and where to do their work, while offices will become meeting spaces rather than the focal point of a working day.

That’s the vision of how the world of work will look just 10 years from now, according to two leading academics from Cass Business School and Henley Business School, who carried out research into future ways of working across 360 managers in 40 countries.

The research, which was conducted as part of a new book entitled Future Work: How Businesses Can Adapt and Thrive in the New World of Work, found that two-thirds of managers believe that there will be a revolution in working practices over the next decade.

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Nine out of 10 surveyed said that they felt staff were more productive when given greater autonomy and more than eight in 10 thought that there were business benefits to new methods of working.

“In the 21st century, we still cling to a rigid model of fixed working time and place better suited to the industrial age,” says Alison Maitland, a senior visiting fellow at Cass Business School. “Long hours are often required and rewarded without any measure of the productivity involved.

“However, there is overwhelming evidence that employees are more productive if they have greater autonomy over where, when and how they work. Trusting people to manage their own work lives, individually or in teams, pays off.”

In the book, the authors draw on international companies that have already made the transition to a more flexible means of working and are benefiting from greater efficiencies, lower cost bases and the ability to give employees more freedom.

Successful examples include clothing retailer GAP, which halved the attrition rate of staff in its production and design department when it introduced a results-based model, and Google, which allows engineers to work whatever hours they like as long as they meet pre-arranged schedules.

The book also references a study of 24,000 IBM staff across the globe that found that those working flexibly would have to work an extra 19 hours per week before they experienced the same levels of stress and health issues as those working in a more traditional fashion.

“It takes bold leadership to break with old habits, but today’s workforce wants a new deal and it makes business sense to do it,” added Maitland. “Organisations that have discovered this are already reaping the rewards. Those that have not are in danger of being overtaken by events.”

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