But although 2014 has been a stellar year for the economy in some respects – with unemployment down, investment confidence up and the IMF predicting that GDP growth will reach 3.2 per cent before the end of the year – few businesses can afford to take their foot off the accelerator.
On the surface we’re seeing signs of a sustainable recovery, but there are still opportunities for improvement. Data such as the Bank of England’s Summary of Business Conditions confirm that productivity growth is still 5% off its pre-crisis peak and 16 per cent off where it would have been had it continued on its pre-crisis trend.
The good news is that no business is powerless. In the face of anaemic productivity growth, relatively simple changes go a long way. Research we conducted with the CEBR, for example, showed that workers are 44 per cent as productive when working from remote locations as they are in the office, but that introducing new communication and information tools can boost productivity by 10 per cent.
The bad news is that we still have a long way to go. Despite many organisations endorsing the benefits of smart, connected technology, 80 per cent admit that staff still don’t have access to apps and instant messaging tools that allow them to work away from the office effectively.
This ‘connectivity deficit’ caused by companies merely paying lip service to digital transformation costs the UK economy £30bn a year. Unless businesses up and down the country make the most of the technology on offer, it will continue to be a major obstacle between us and increased productivity.
It won’t come as a surprise that O2 advocates investing in connected technology to boost your bottom line. But, in 2012, we set out to quantify the impact that truly flexible working would have on our business by getting all 2500 Head Office staff to work away from the office for the day. Having carried the lessons from the pilot forward, the return we’ve made on our investment tells you all you need to know.
88% of staff said that they were at least as productive when working away from the office as on a normal day, with 36% claiming to have been more productive. In a similar vein, absenteeism has fallen, the number of staff returning from maternity leave is increasing, and everyone who works flexibly reports that their work/life balance has improved it costs.
Giving staff better access to information and tools that allow them to work away from the office offers a simple way for us all to make better use of our time. Whether it’s engineers on a construction site or a sales force on the road, by making the most of the technology available, businesses can reduce inefficiency and concentrate on maximising growth.