Flexible working, desk sensors and office utilisation monitoring in the media
What is flexible working? That’s a question we come across often here at Abintra. Most people think it’s about being able to work flexible hours, allowing employees to have a better work-life balance.
But there is more to it, as recent media articles demonstrate.
In the first, Legal Futures, a UK website for forward-thinking law firms, asks if flexible working can save the environment. Now that’s an idea!
It points out that despite the rise in flexible working, the daily commute is still very much a key feature of the working day. The right to request flexible working was rolled out in 2014 but five years on, less than one in ten jobs paying more than £20k are advertised as flexible.
It says the main drivers for flexible working are cost cutting by reducing real estate costs and social benefits (family friendliness), but it says reduced impact on the environment should be another, as fewer commutes would cut pollution. It points to a report from the Carbon Trust claiming that homeworking could save around 3 million tons of carbon emissions in the UK.
In a second article, Workplace Insight, another UK online resource looks at the vogue theme of agile working.
It’s a hot concept for progressive managers looking to break away from traditional working models in pursuit of more creativity and productivity. We should say here that in our experience, workplaces redesigned for agility are also popular with employees, and they go hand in hand with flexible working, of course.
Workplace Insight, whose readers include HR, IT and facilities managers, looks back to The Agile Manifesto, which way back in 2001 signalled a shift in approach to workplace design. One of a dozen principles in the manifesto is that you should build projects around motivated individuals and give them the environment they need to get the job done.
According to the piece, flexible working, activity-based working, remote working, and unassigned seating are all manifestations of this idea. Work is changing, and workplaces need to reflect this, it notes, listing three primary drivers behind the shift to agile working in the UK.
1. Reducing costs: Switching to flexible working reduces the need for expensive real estate.
2. Growth: Activity-based designs allow companies to flex as occupancy rates fluctuate.
3. Employee experience: Insight points out that organisations are fighting a “war for talent, so offices need to be appealing. Three out of four employees cite flexibility as one of their top two reasons to stay with an employer.
The third media piece comes from Open Access Government, an international forum on public policy, and it focuses on a subject close to our hearts, smart buildings. This piece says smart technologies can improve the sustainability of commercial buildings alongside other “soft” benefits such as health and wellbeing.
It reckons firms’ sustainability strategies have been a major driver for the technology which gives facilities managers more efficient controls over energy usage with significant reductions in consumption.
Smart systems allow lighting, heating, air conditioning and ventilation to be monitored and adjusted according to a building’s usage and occupation, even down to an individual employee’s preferences when connected to individual desk sensors.
Moving on to the subject of wellbeing, the article says smart tech has an important role in health and wellbeing by creating an environment that helps people to stay alert and energised.
Abintra’s WiseNet sensors can monitor air quality, light, temperature and noise levels among other factors that affect employees’ concentration levels.
One of the main points we make to our customers is that offering employees the opportunity to work flexibly is – or should be – just one direction of a two-way street. In return, our experience is that employees are much better disposed to accepting desk sharing and new agile working systems.
This argument is even stronger when the environmental improvements are added in to the mix, with many employees concerned about wider environmental issues and reducing their own carbon footprint. The environmental theme is also especially compelling when employees are given the power to adapt their individual desk environment to their personal taste.