If you have ever needed to be away from the office to look after your child at the last minute, run an important personal errand or even accept a midday delivery at your home – then you will appreciate the advantages that flexible working offers. In fact, there are multiple benefits for employers and for wider society too: greater employee satisfaction and retention, increased workforce productivity, and considerable reductions in both travel and real estate costs and CO2 emissions. With continuing economic uncertainty in Europe, changing workforce demographics and a widening productivity gap compared to other regions such as the US, governments in Europe should be doing more to champion smarter ways of working so we can better realize these advantages and ultimately have a positive impact on Europe’s competiveness.
Despite the increasing availability of new communication technologies, however, a new Microsoft-funded study, interviewing 1,500 workers across 15 European countries on their attitudes towards flexible working, revealed that we are still a long way from making this happen in one of the leading industrial regions in the world. While the majority of office workers want to work more flexibly, and believe that their lives would improve if they could work more flexibly, the larger the organization, the less likely its employees can do so. Fifty six per cent of flexible workers believe they work more productively away from the office, but yet half of the respondents said they lacked access to the most basic technology tools, such as a company laptop or mobile email device, to allow them to work remotely or while travelling to and from the office.
Smart working and the EU’s Digital Agenda
| Fast Facts |
Real estate costs
have been reduced by 30% per annum at Microsoft Netherlands [A 30% reduction of floor space needed creates a 30% reduction in carbon emissions.
Microsoft Switzerland and myclimate have calculated
that working from home has the potential to save 4.5 million car kilometres per week (when the average utilization of Switzerland from 1.6 persons per car basis is put), and 2.6 million passenger-kilometres in public transport. This would result in savings of approximately 1,400 tons of CO2 per week or 67,000 tons of CO2 per year (on basis of 48 work weeks).
The EU’s 2020 growth strategy for the next decade set the objectives of creating a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy to realize the goal of a more competitive and innovative Europe. At Microsoft we are convinced that new technologies, like cloud computing, offer the best opportunity to realize the EU2020’s goal. The adoption of new technologies in itself however is not enough; competitive advantage increasingly comes from using technology in an intelligent way. According to a recent white paper from Microsoft UK’s Hybrid Organisation initiative, leading businesses, like electronics manufacturer Philips, financial services provider Rabobank Nederland and pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline, are combining communications technology with radically redesigned workspaces to free employees to work in more innovative, collaborative ways. Organizations that will be successful in the future are those that optimize people, place and technology by providing their employees with a workplace that facilitates flexibility and self-direction, enables them with technology and tools to work whenever they please, and trusts them to be productive, innovative and entrepreneurial wherever they are.
Partnering for a New World of Work in Europe
At Microsoft we call this the new world of work, realizing the vision of a new way of working, first outlined by Bill Gates 6 years ago. Many of our Microsoft offices in Europe have adopted this vision in their own to best fit with their needs and culture: the Microsoft Netherlands office was the first to adopt what it describes as the ‘Het Nieuwe Werken’ (the New Way of Working) concept in 2008 and one of our most recent offices to undertake the journey, the Microsoft Finland team describes their journey differently, calling it ‘Läsnätyö’, meaning ‘presence work’ in Finnish. Austria and Italy will follow soon, as well as other Microsoft subsidiaries. We are seeing the benefits of this approach for our employees as Microsoft was recently awarded the Best Multinational Workplace in Europe 2011, the fourth year in a row we have taken the top spot, a great testament to how our employees view our workplace culture.
Our commitment extends further than our own offices and through Home Office Day initiatives in Denmark, Belgium and Switzerland we are encouraging businesses across Europe to find out for themselves the benefits of working smarter from our homes, cafes, customer sites or while travelling. Home Office Days are partnership initiatives between Microsoft, government entities, companies from the private sector and NGOs that aim to spark a national debate about the possibilities of working remotely, educating management and employees on the advantages for people and society that flexible, smarter working can offer.
Third places to work: Partnering with public administrations
Governments too can play an important role in fostering smarter working in businesses by providing services for an increasingly mobile workforce. Public administrations, such as the City of Barcelona, have taken action already. With the support of the Microsoft Innovation Center for Productivity the city recently launched a portal to help mobile workers use suitable “third places of work” such as hotels or coffee shops with Internet access, printers and other productivity resources in the city. That’s a smart way to increase productivity—both for mobile resident workers, business visitors and tourists. This, in turn, has enabled the city to better serve its citizens, while expanding the city’s reputation as a premiere location for business conferences. Given the portal’s success in Barcelona, MIC Productivity has already launched the solution in other Spanish cities, and plans to expand the portal to other parts of Europe in the future. How Europe harnesses the use of new technologies to give its citizens the conditions required for optimising skills, quality and productivity of work at all ages will be especially important in an increasingly service oriented, knowledge-intensive economy. Working smarter will go a long way to help us achieve a sustainable future and a flourishing digital economy by 2020.