VWork: Measuring the benefits of agility at work

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This report identifies the three Vs: Virtual, adVantage and Value that will define the benefits of agile working as it emerges over the next decade. As the concept of ‘virtuality’ gains ground, monetising agility and creating a robust business case for changing the way we work will become essential. Winning strategies at work is all about success. And this success is for both employer and employee as the concept of VWork delivers dividends in a number of areas.

‘New ways of working’ are already being put in place. In our survey only 8.5% of respondents from large organisations reported that no programme was in place. Of large enterprises surveyed, 62.5% have already rolled out new ways of working.

Much has been written about virtual working over the last few decades. The traditional definition of telecommuting or home working and its predicted rise has not materialised. Our survey found that only 1.6% of people who work for large employers work from home – most (63.5%) still commute to an office four or five days each week. But interestingly, only 9.7% of people in these organisations would like to work from home. The preference is for local work, within a 10-minute commute from home.

As cities become increasingly immobile, we predict a rise in a ‘permeable’ city where people will work from a variety of locations. Our survey found that people were ready for nomadic work, with 59% saying they now had the right technology tools to work anywhere. Virtual work is a response to these pressures. It challenges the traditional fixed workplace as the container for work, and instead paints a more eclectic picture of ‘Martini’ work: anytime, anyplace, anywhere; a fragmentation of the rules of office and corporate life that will be mirrored by a growth in distributed work, both through outsourcing and collaborative work-styles.

What is clear is that there is an expectation that the younger workers, the millennial generation and those still at school, will embrace virtual working and reject the traditional office. Of our respondents in large employers, 74% expected this to be the case, and so it is no surprise that 71.9% of them predicted a decrease in the amount of office space that will be required. They see the office as a place for occasional use (51.2%) and would prefer a much shorter commute to an office – under 20 minutes compared with over 40 today. Business benefits that can provide competitive, cost or other adVantage show that the primary driver for change is people’s productivity. AdVantages vary by size of company, but a clear focus on reducing the cost of real estate for the organisation and improving work/life balance for the employee were evident in our survey results.

Placing a value on agility is one of the objectives of this research. With a move towards virtuality, the traditional approach of measuring workplace performance in £ or $ per square foot or the ratio of desks to people becomes irrelevant. Instead, we adopt a people-centric approach that also mirrors the idea of internet-centric computing in a ‘buy your own’ world. Providing real time, on demand services for work, and a cost per capita per month for work ‘provision’, gives us a new way of understanding the costs of doing business as well as demonstrating and monetising the benefits.

Case studies from early adopters of more virtual approaches to work, from Yell to Boeing and Cisco all paint a picture of significant cost savings and clear business benefits. We see three key stages to becoming virtual, starting with a convergence of the ‘real’, followed by a move to an augmented reality and finally a shift to virtual reality.

Virtual work, VWork, will be a fact of life for most people as social networking collides with the physical workplace to blur the boundaries. As inter-company collaboration becomes more prevalent, as work gets distributed to lower cost centres and as our towns and cities become more and more immobile, people will begin to look for and adopt new approaches. Organisations need a plan to embrace winning strategies at work.

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