Are you part of the’ Work Revolution’?

The regimented and somewhat dated 9-5 work culture has had a rude awakening with the up and coming release of Alison Maitland and Peter Thomson’s book titled ‘Future Work: How Businesses Can Adapt and Thrive In The New World Of Work’. Both authors feel that too many companies have not moved with the times and still cling to the dated presenteeism culture where employees are judged on how long they sit at their desks versus rewarding staff for their results rather than their contracted hours. The academic theory draws upon a survey of 360 international managers across 40 different countries, revealing that two thirds believe that there will be a revolution in working practices in the next 10 years.

Maitland states that “Long hours are often required and rewarded without any measure of the productivity involved” this is supported by the fact that 90% of  those surveyed felt that people would be more productive if given autonomy over their working patterns. Recent studies demonstrate the numerous benefits of flexible working and hot desking including a fall in absenteeism, employee turnover and savings on property costs.

Two of the case studies cited in the revolutionary book include search engine mogul Google and clothing retailer Gap. These two global companies have adopted the ROWE system (Results-Only Work Environment) whose key principles include ‘every meeting is optional’ and ‘there is no judgement about how you spend your time’. Google’s engineers have benefitted from the ROWE introduction as Matt Brittin CEO of Google UK and Ireland stated that “Our engineers can work whatever hours they like assuming that they co-ordinate with colleagues and deliver what’s agreed”. Since Gaps introduction of the ROWE system they have halved the turnover rate of employees. Gap’s Senior Vice President of HR and Communications Eric Severson revealed that by changing their working culture they have given their company a three year competitive advantage.

The news of the work revolution has even reached the doors of the White House, with President Obama calling for federal workers to be judged by the results they get not by how many meetings they attend or the amount of facetime they log. Obama has targeted an $8bn saving by 2012 from reducing the use of office space. This is supported by a US Microsoft survey revealing that 71% of employees felt they were most productive when away from the office.

Following on from Google and Gap’s successful examples of implementing a Results-Only Work Culture, Vodafone UK have additionally identified the need to reduce office space and increase flexible working by having no private offices, no personal desks and virtually no paper. Not even the CEO is allowed more than one filling cabinet drawer of storage. Vodafone UK Chief Executive Guy Lawrence highlights the company’s benefits “It used to take us 90 days to change a price plan, now we do it in four days!”

A study of 24,000 IBM staff worldwide additionally found that those with flexible working could work an extra 19 hours a week before hitting the same level of stress and health issues than those at the office. Despite the clear benefits of adopting ROWE systems and flexible working, Future Work’s survey of 366 international managers still reveals that over 70% of managers continue to adopt a traditional approach versus the future work approach, however, 70% admit that the future work approach would be more effective. 

Maitland concludes that “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!” So with Christmas soon approaching Maitland and Thomson’s Future Work book may prove to be a beneficial Christmas read. Will your business rethink its current presenteeism culture and make flexible working and ROWE systems part of its New Year’s Resolution?!

Sophia Tirelli

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