It's high time businesses embraced the "Anywhere Office" says O2's Ben Dowd

Moves like giving staff tablets so that they can work during their commutes could help save businesses £1.6bn a week

Productivity is a vogue word, found on the lips of politicians, the governor of the Bank of England, and in businesses everywhere. And with the productivity of employees in the UK nearly a third lower than their G7 counterparts, it’s not surprising the nation’s productivity problems are under the microscope.

Unfortunately, government intervention and investment alone aren’t the answer. Businesses of all sizes need to take specific steps to boost Britain’s productivity. At O2, we surveyed senior managers and employees across the country to understand how to improve workplace efficiency.
Our research found over two thirds of Britain’s employees think that technology has a positive impact on their productivity at work. Yet less than half of businesses have integrated digital into their strategy. It doesn’t add up. So what manageable steps can you take to improve the situation in your business?

ALLOW AN ANYWHERE OFFICE

An “Anywhere Office” means allowing employees to work flexibly – in terms of both time and location. It’s not just a faddy trend; it can have a real impact on the bottom line. In fact, we found that over two thirds of senior managers in large businesses think that breaking the nine to five work pattern has helped their company achieve greater business success.
In practical terms, it means giving employees the digital tools they need, including smartphones or tablets, to work smarter – not harder. It doesn’t mean employees should be accessible 24/7; it means giving people the option to work in a way that suits them, in order to drive maximum productivity.
It could enable, for example, parents to work from home around child care commitments, or help commuters to make the most of their journey into work – which will also reduce extra time spent at their desks. It sounds simple, but it can drive efficiency, staff satisfaction and client service.

ENCOURAGE COLLABORATION

As the old adage goes, two heads are better than one: collaboration helps to increase productivity. The good news is that two thirds of UK businesses are already using online collaboration tools such as white boarding portals, idea sharing forums, instant messaging, and video conferencing, with those we spoke to saying it leads to greater efficiency and improved sharing of resources. Providing employees with access to Wifi through a dongle, or using tools such as Skype, Box and One Note, are simple ways to encourage collaboration.
That said, software and hardware won’t be the silver bullet. Encouraging a collaborative culture is just as important – whether making sure that senior managers take time to work with more junior colleagues, or that apprentices or graduates fresh to the workforce feel able to contribute valuable new ideas to the business.

KEEP THINGS SAFE AND SECURE

For some companies, concerns about security can be a barrier to using digital technology. But it can be easy and simple to equip your teams with the tools and confidence to work securely from anywhere. Using a web-based data storage service such as Office 365 enables employees to store, share and simultaneously work on a document safely. The figures speak for themselves. Our research found that, if companies embrace the Anywhere Office approach, they could collectively save 6.6m hours and £1.6bn per week.
It’s time for more firms to harness the – often straightforward – technology at their fingertips to boost productivity in their business, and ultimately to help fuel economic growth.
Ben Dowd is business director at O2.

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