By Francesca James

Research has revealed that the increase in technology adoption by organisations over the last decade has heightened UK office workers’ expectations of how work should fit into their lifestyles.

Over the last decade, the number of home workers has doubled from 21% to 40%, and the number of employers offering flexible working arrangements for parents has increased from 28% to 44%. Despite these positive changes, a quarter of UK office workers would prefer their working hours to better fit around their lifestyle, with the main reasons being to better align with their partners and children, or to avoid commuting.

Increased technology adoption by organisations is helping to drive this new trend. Employees have changed the way they communicate, with email and social media use significantly increasing and face-to-face meetings and phone calls showing a steady decline. Laptop use has almost tripled amongst office workers over the last ten years to reach 46% in 2012. Mobile phone use has doubled, and one in ten respondents now use a tablet at work. The adoption of video conferencing has increased significantly, with 26% using it ten years ago and 42% doing so now. Interestingly, more men than women use technology in the work context - something that hasn’t changed over the last ten years.

The survey also revealed that nearly one in five office workers would move away from urban areas if they could work flexibly, suggesting that UK employers could recruit from a greater pool of candidates if more employees were offered the chance to work remotely.

Gary Rider, President at Polycom EMEA comments:

‘Businesses have changed significantly over the past ten years thanks to technological innovation, but our figures show that the majority of employers still don’t provide their staff with enough flexibility. At the same time flexible working arrangements benefit everyone: employees who want a better work/life balance, businesses who would enjoy a more productive workforce and the UK economy that needs to reduce the £8bn annual spend on congestion. With new cloud-based solutions such as Polycom’s RealPresence CloudAxis Suite*, enabling businesses to extend enterprise-grade video collaboration to users of social media, and with collaboration technologies empowering people to work from anywhere and on any device, nothing should stop employers from embracing the new ways of working.”

Matthew Ball, Director, Enterprise at analyst firm Canalys shared his thoughts on what further changes we might expect in the future:

‘Not only has technology transformed the way we work and communicate, it’s also heightened our expectations of how work should fit into our lifestyles. Employees are demanding more flexibility and choice, and this trend will lead to significant changes in work practices over the next ten years.

‘Based on current trends and changes in working culture, almost all information workers will have the option of remote working by 2022, with the main means of communication being social media and video conferencing via mobile devices. The majority of knowledge workers will be targeted on delivering results with flexibility to choose days and hours worked. As a result, the concept of a ‘weekend’ and ‘working hours’ will be less mainstream.

‘A person’s physical location will stop being an important criterion for employers and this will give people greater choice about where they would like to live based on personal preferences. There will be more opportunities to be employed by more than one organisation, for example acting as independent consultants for companies all over the country.’