With technology rapidly changing the world around us, businesses that embrace new ways of working are the ones that will succeed.
Technological change has always driven changes in working practices. As evocatively captured in Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony for the Olympics, industrialisation brought forth new forms of transport and communication that not only transformed England’s countryside but also the nature of work. The development of the moving assembly line in the early 20th century drove further change through strictly regulated workflow and the efficient division of labour.
Today, we are seeing a transition away from these industrial modes of working. Driven by the proliferation of powerful devices such as smartphones and tablets, coupled with high-speed Internet connectivity, this change will be no less profound than the Industrial Revolution was.
For many organisations in both the public and private sector, the build up to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games has accelerated this change as they have sought to minimise the impact to business continuity.
But many other organisations have resisted this transition. According to research we carried out before the Olympics, only 10 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in London had adopted new working practices to minimise potential disruptions.
As it has turned out, there has been much less disruption than expected. But this is no argument for complacency. Conditions can change rapidly, as we saw in 2010 when unexpectedly heavy snow cost UK businesses more than £1 billion in lost productivity as staff struggled to make it into work, frequently cancelling or postponing meetings as a result. The affects of the volcanic ash cloud disruption in the same year were felt far wider than just the UK. Over 300 airports across Europe were disrupted, and more than 6.8 million passengers were directly affected.
On a global scale, conditions can change just as quickly. A recent survey by International Data Corporation suggests that in the next three years more than one billion workers across the globe will be working remotely. The survey showed that of the 1.3 billion workers, 244.6 million will be in Europe, 212.1 million in the Americas and 838.7 million in emerging economies of the Asia Pacific region.
In this new era of work, businesses that have increased their capacity to work flexibly will maintain or even improve productivity, while those that lag behind risk losing everything. Where will your business be?
Photo credit: NASA