Smart Commute Week highlights the way we work is changing

Smart Commute Week is an initiative by Work Wise UK, a non-profit which launched in 2006, to highlight better ways for office workers to commute – or not – as the winter months approach and bad weather throws our transport links into chaos.

This March, in the midst of the now-infamous Beast from the East, it was announced that bad winter weather costs the economy £1 billion a day, thanks largely in part to difficulties commuters and those looking to socialise outside of work faced in travelling. Employees were unable to make it into work, restaurants were desolate, and even big national stores like Wilko closed early.

A lot of TSG head office staff were affected by the bad March weather, with many of us unable to make it into work. But thanks to a number of factors including cloud-based technology, portable hardware (and nice bosses!), we were able to work from home with little to no disruption to our working days. My colleague Katy even carried out her day-to-day duties on her iPhone!

Beyond the inevitable bad weather we’ll undoubtedly experience this winter (and, knowing Britain, spring too!), there are many other reasons why businesses should embrace flexible working options for employees. New TUC analysis released this week reveals that our commuting time has increased, meaning we’re spending more time on the road and less time either at work or home. A 2014 Stanford University study found that workers put in more hours and complete more work when working from home. Additionally, Jabra’s 2018 productivity survey found that UK workers consider their home to be their most productive working environment, while FlexJobs’ recent poll found that 60% of workers feel they would be more productive working from home.

According to a recent YouGov survey, 94% of people in the UK are already working flexibly in some capacity; the survey looked at whether workers stick rigidly to a traditional 9-5 schedule, with the result showing how the way we work has completely changed.

This doesn’t necessarily take into account those who work from home or other locations outside of the office, but it shows how much the way we work has changed. Work Wise has recommended a number of options alongside working from home to help businesses and their employees be more productive including condensed hours or shifting working times by an hour to avoid peak travel times.

The evidence that a number of flexible working options increase productivity, happiness and staff retention is overwhelming. Not only that, the vast majority of workers want those options. The FlexJobs survey also found that a staggering 97% of workers want long-term flexible working solutions.

All of these surveys, polls and studies tell us the same thing. Employees want and need flexible working options. Now that you know that, how do you make this a possibility?

Empowering your employees to work flexibly largely comes down to the tools at your disposal. Can they do everything at home, or elsewhere, that they could do at the office? Even without their office equipment? The ability to answer yes to this question is essential.

That’s where tools like Office 365 come in. I can access Office 365 in the office, at home, on a train… the list goes on. I’m also not tied to my work laptop. I have the most important apps downloaded onto both my iPad and mobile phone so that if I’m not able to make it in the office because I’m snowed in (a common problem in the North East), I can still do everything I could in the office. I can access the TSG website and social media platforms, as well as critical shared documents that I’ve been working on thanks to collaborative document management in Microsoft Teams.

This tool in particular can offer me one office experience that many argue can’t be replicated at home: collaboration. With Microsoft Teams I can hold video or audio meetings with my entire team, have streamlined, relevant conversations about projects we’re working on and even collaborate on the same document at the same time.

Thanks to the cloud, every system and solution most office-based workers use are available anytime, anywhere. And because of the affordable price points of solutions like Office 365, you don’t need to break the bank to give your workers these opportunities; so many businesses already use Office 365 and those who don’t will likely be on an older Office package that will one day be upgraded to Office 365.

The evidence is overwhelming: flexible working is becoming more commonplace, it’s overwhelmingly popular and it makes the majority of workers more productive. With only 60% of time spent in the office used productively, why wouldn’t you empower your employees to take advantage of the cloud? And even if that option is only used when necessary – like during periods of severe weather – you can remain safe in the knowledge that your workforce’s productivity won’t suffer.