Microsoft Canada has announced the results of its Flexible Workspaces survey – a study which examined the workstyle preferences of employees and bosses with regards to working remotely and how they ranked their productivity while working remotely.
The survey found that while many employees are seeking flexible work arrangements, not all of their bosses believe they work as efficiently when they are working outside the office. In fact, only one-quarter of Canadian bosses polled feel employees are more productive when working remotely, compared to when in the office. However, the findings from employees countered the bosses’ perceptions, with 55% reporting that they believed they were more productive when working remotely. The survey polled Canadians who work full time in an office with 10 or more employees and for companies which allow remote working arrangements.
“What we once considered the traditional office is changing,” said James Nicholson, Deployment Specialist for Windows with Microsoft Canada. “More and more customers, colleagues and technology partners are finding themselves taking business calls from airport waiting lounges, reviewing work documents as they wait at the dentist office or sit on the train, or running important personal errands during their work day. And at the centre of their workstyles, people expect increased technological capabilities to keep up with them – everything from real time collaboration with colleagues to video conferencing and secure access to their files.”
The good news is: almost half of the polled bosses (42%) say that they do support remote working arrangements for their employees. Mike Kennedy, Vice President at Aon Hewitt and National Lead, Health Strategies and Solutions, agrees, “As workers juggle longer hours and aim to maintain a work-life balance, employers who can offer flexible workspaces to their employees are leading the pack in becoming employers of choice. We are seeing more and more that employees are seeking out flexible work arrangements and the opportunity to work outside the office walls – anywhere and anytime, from the airport to the soccer field. And as the competition for top talent continues, particularly for the next generation entering the workforce and for the highly skilled experienced talent, employers who aren’t keeping up may be left behind.”
The need for up-to-date technology is one thing everyone can agree on, the study found. The overwhelming majority of both bosses (95%) and employees (90%) polled say that it is very important to have similar capabilities when working remotely compared to when working in the office.
“Organizations that will be successful in the future are those that remove the barriers between people, workplace and technology,” said James Nicholson. “When you empower your people by creating a workplace that facilitates flexibility with the technology and solutions that help them to be productive wherever they are, you get the most out of your people.”
The top reasons cited by the survey respondents for working remotely include needing to finish work that couldn’t be finished at the office (48%); having fewer distractions (44%); being more productive than in the office (35%); and having a better balance of work/home priorities (35%).
“Boundaries between work and life are blurring, “says Carolyn Buccongello, Vice President of Human Resources with Microsoft Canada. “You may dismiss this as a Generation-C issue but this speaks broadly to all generations. There are pros and cons to this new way of work, but it is not going away and technology can become the key to resetting those boundaries.”
According to Ms. Buccongello, there are three core dimensions to transforming business for flexible work:
- Technology – With the advances made in technology, the ability to work any time, any place, from virtually anywhere shatters the myth of the office as the primary work location.
- Places – Canadian workers are on the move from airports, other offices, commuting home on the train – they are becoming more fluid in terms of their physical presence.
- People – Canadian modern society is shifting as technology becomes commonplace, enabling Canadians to work and communicate in different ways.
“To create a flexible workforce begins with leadership teams building a culture of trust and a vision that focuses on individual results rather than how much time they spend at their desk. You have to empower your people with self-direction. That’s not just common sense, that’s business sense,” said Ms. Buccongello.
According to Mr. Kennedy, employers who combine these three elements will empower both the organization and people with an environment that lets them do their best work wherever they are. “For businesses large and small, there are several benefits including increased productivity, and the ability to attract and retain the best talent,” said Mr. Kennedy.
- The survey revealed bosses’ top pet peeves in dealing with remote workers were: the inability to talk face-to-face (49%), lack of focus (26%), lack of accountability (22%) and the belief that employees are doing less work (22%).
- Bosses are much more likely than employees to conduct business in public spaces (62% vs. 34%).
- The most frequent places mentioned by bosses include while driving (46%), on public transportation (29%) and at a bar or restaurant (25%).
- The majority of respondents (89%) indicate that their companies provide tech support for company owned devices. In contrast, more than half (54%) of companies that respondents work for do not provide tech support for personally owned devices.
- Bosses (62%) rate themselves higher than employees (55%) in feeling that they are more productive when working remotely.
In 2011, Microsoft was ranked the #1 overall “Best Workplaces in Canada”, for companies with more than 1,000 employees.