New technologies and innovations are shaping a culture of rapid demand and convenience. With online shopping becoming as simple as touching a button with the launch of the Amazon Dash, and retail banking authentication requiring a simple fingerprint swipe or voice recording, everyday tasks have never been so simple, easy and fast.
With such technological advances, businesses across the UK are now in a strong position to provide the workforce with tech-enabled, flexible working. This puts the power of choice firmly in their hands- allowing them to choose how they work, at what times and on a device of their preference. The UK government has been championing such an approach since 2014, with the introduction of legislation to permit every employee the legal right to request to work flexibly.
Despite such advancements, many organisations are still worryingly lagging behind. Many are still not allowing workers to enjoy the full advantage of flexible working. Recent research commissioned by Ricoh UK casts light on this issue.
Surveying 1,249 business workers across the UK, the research- conducted in partnership with YouGov – reveals that a culture of ‘presenteeism’, where employees spend longer at their desks in order to look like they are doing more work, is rife in British businesses today. It is the younger generation of professionals who are most impacted by this outdated way of working, as they are more exposed to the rise of flexible technology and use mobile and tablet devices in their personal lives.
One of the key findings from the research was how young workers in particular feel under pressure to compromise their own working styles in order to meet the expectation that they should be present and working at their desk at all times. 67% of 18-26 year olds have admitted to faking the extent of their workloads by staying longer at the office beyond their contracted hours, all with the ultimate goal of getting recognised and progressing ahead of their peers.
The research findings also revealed that working away from the offices is viewed unfavourably. 39% of young professionals polled believe it could damage their progression up the ladder. A further 41% also think that their bosses favour those who work beyond their contracted hours in the office, revealing how a culture of fear is instilled in British businesses today.
But how can such fear be allowed to exist in our digital age? It is nonsensical that such outdated ways of working continue to take pride of place. Do we really want a generation of tired and demotivated workers? It is clear that British business leaders must take clear steps to arm the next generation of young professionals with the technology that they are used to using and that can actually enhance their working lives.
Enriching employee development with technology-enabled working initiatives tailored to each individual is that something that we are committed to. We heavily invest in the right technology so that our staff can work the hours and in the way that best suits them. This significantly improves employee engagement, wellbeing and loyalty. Furthermore, we also believe it helps staff to work more efficiently and productively.
But investment into new technologies is only one part of the story. If British businesses are to be truly freed from a culture of presenteeism, this has to be complimented by a total change of mindset. Ricoh’s research shows how 49% of young workers want the government to do more to ensure businesses are clear on their obligations to provide flexible working, while 58% think the government could do more to educate employers on why flexible working is important and beneficial.
The government has paved the path, but more has to be done to ensure that a culture of presenteeism is stamped out. It is only by continuing to challenge the ‘we have always done it that way’ mindset and investing into the latest technology, that we will be able to help our young professionals succeed in their career and power the digital economy forward.
By Chas Moloney, marketing director, Ricoh UK & Ireland