As technology continues to become increasingly integral to the workplace, the pace at which new working practices are being implemented is rapidly growing. As large companies are keen to benefit and use these innovations to their advantage, it is vital for SMBs to keep pace.
The importance of SMBs to UK industry cannot be understated. The 5.2 million small businesses in the UK make up 99.3% of all UK employers. With this kind of impact on both the national workforce, and therefore the economy, it is vital for SMBs to remain at the forefront of industry and, in the modern world, that means embracing technology. The transition from desktop computers to laptops and tablets mean that staff can now work remotely at any time of the day, from anywhere in the world. By reducing the need for a permanently full office, companies can save on expensive equipment and resources while getting the same results. This increased flexibility and cost-effectiveness is not just beneficial for SMBs but also the staff.
Flexibility of hours can be of great benefit to millions of workers. Currently three million employees in the UK spend more than two hours a day commuting and an additional million travel further compared to three years ago. This becomes increasingly alarming when the congestion of this rush hour traffic has increased by 72% in just a decade. If nothing is done about this, employees will spend more and more time simply getting to work. If this is making the workforce tired before their work day even starts, it could have a potentially devastating effect on productivity and well-being. By simply offering flexible working, this could be avoided, offering mutual benefits for millions of workers and SMBs.
Even if the working day was more flexible, it would still likely last around eight hours. Sweden recently took a radical approach by experimenting with a new six hour day. The belief is that almost two hours of an eight hour day are wasted between additional breaks, chatting and social media. By removing this time, they believe that workers will be more efficient, have more leisure time and, as a direct result, job satisfaction and productivity would both be likely to rise. If the experiment works, it will reinforce the idea that changes like this are not merely a trend as work life is changing fundamentally.
There is a genuine appetite for change from within the workforce, and this is not just down to the rise in online communications. Many people are leaving traditional working environments to become self-employed. To this end, almost two thirds of UK small businesses are home based and 70% started that way. This can result in long or unsociable hours and, in the case of those working freelance, essentially surrendering traditional worker’s rights such as holiday and sick pay. This seems like an incredible sacrifice in comparison to a traditional 9 to 5 environment, but this is typical of the shifting attitude.
Helping to drive this shifting landscape is the huge impact of millennials, a whole generation that grew up embracing the evolution of technology, that have entered the workplace in recent years and are also keen to move away from the traditional office dynamic. With flexible working hours and the rise of the “gig economy” their influence is already changing the way we think about the workplace.
With so many innovations in technology and the impact that causes, it could become easy for the cautious to be left behind. From working hours to commuting and digital communication, the workplace is almost unrecognisable from just a decade ago.
This fascinating infographic, created by AVG Business, looks at how the world of work has changed over the years and, in doing so, where it might be heading in the future. By studying these trends, small businesses can prepare for the changes that will shape the workplace of the future.