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Flexible working and beyond the nine to five

Matt McAllister

Flexible working and beyond the nine to five

Expectations of the small and medium business workforce are changing. Matt McAllister finds out why business leaders need to listen to employees if they’re to remain competitive

Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are evolving and the change is being driven by employees, according to a report by IT giant Dell and market research company TNS Global.

The Evolving Workforce survey – part of a wider project to identify future working trends – shows that the global SMB workforce have very clear expectations about work, in terms of mobile working, their working hours and the technology they’re given to complete projects.

These expectations are indicative of how the business world is evolving to meet the expectations of both employees and clients.

According to Kevin Peesker, general manager for small and medium business (UK and Ireland) at Dell, one of the most striking things about the survey is that workers are moving away from a traditional nine to five routine. It’s part of a wider realisation that work should be defined in terms of output rather than hours in the office.

“Almost three-quarters of the UK workforce report that their employers give them freedom to choose how to work, and more than 50% say it’s an important freedom to have,” Peesker says. “This underscores the notion that British employees want to be measured by the quality of their work, not the amount of time spent in the workplace.”

Peesker adds that only 50% of British workers said that they are able to actually complete their workloads within a traditional nine to five schedule, suggesting that their expectations have changed to meet the realities of a globalised, technology-reliant world.

Clients, customers and colleagues around the globe now expect to be able to contact businesses outside of traditional working hours, while employees are demanding the flexibility to juggle their personal lives with their professional lives.

These requirements have led to a dramatic rise in employees who spend the majority of their day working remotely, with 64% of respondents describing themselves as mobile workers.

Overlapping spheres

Peesker says that it is middle to senior level managers aged between 25 to 34 who are driving change in the workplace.

He points out that overlapping personal and private spheres within SMBs has encouraged "the consumerisation of technology" – the migration of the consumer experiences into a workplace environment.

This can be seen in everything from the importance of social media in business life to the use of consumer technology, such as smartphones and tablets, inside work.

“Technology is a significant driver of workplace change, and it is shaping employees’ attitudes towards the most productive ways of working and workplace morale,” says Peesker. “Our findings show that the benefit of technology as a means of facilitating new, more flexible and more productive ways of working are well recognised in the UK.”

Not all of the findings of the survey are directly linked to technology, however.

British employees want to be measured by the quality of their work, not the amount of time spent in the workplace.

Respondents in all of the countries surveyed said that small and medium businesses offer better job stability than larger enterprises, though 25% believed outsourcing to be a threat. And SMB workers said they are happier with their working environments than they would be at larger enterprises due to factors such as being able to choose their own devices for work and being less pressured to work longer hours.

The findings also identify another key difference between SMBs and larger employers: SMB employees feel that their employers trust them to a much greater degree, refraining from unpopular tactics such as monitoring email. This has meant that they in turn trust their employer, increasing loyalty and productivity.

Peesker says that this trust is generated by employers listening to employees’ concerns and requirements, and reacting to them.

“The results from around the world show that 55% of employees from SMBs say they feel their employer listens to them, compared to only 36% at large enterprises,” he says. “In Australia 93% of SMB workers consider themselves to be trusted, with 90% in both the UK and Canada saying the same.”

Innovative solutions

So how will the evolution of the SMB workforce progress in the coming years?

Peesker says that the key global trend will be for mobile technology and mobile working to continue to grow, allowing for new ways of accomplishing tasks and greater productivity.

He argues that SMBs’ willingness to follow the needs of employees in this regard shows that they are leading the way in innovative workplace solutions.

“I think we can anticipate UK businesses allowing workers increased freedom through practices like flexible working and device choice,” he says. “This in turn will increase motivation, and drive the productivity and creativity that will stimulate further innovation and growth.”

For more information on Dell’s Evolving Workplace survey visit: http://content.dell.com/us/en/corp/d/campaigns/the-evolving-workforce

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