The role of technology in the rise of flexible working

A steadily rising number of the workforce may now be requesting flexible opportunities but the concept has been fuelled by developments and improvements in connected technologies. Cloud computing, teleconferencing, workplace apps and even faster wifi has enabled employees to work from home yet still stay safely and securely connected. And the provision of 5G ultra-high-speed internet in the next few years will further assist remote working.  

Early adoption of technology 

We think of flexible working as something that has only existed within the past decade but the internet, mobile phones and laptops enabled early forms of remote working as early as the start of the 1990s. However, it has been the improvement in internet speeds, the roll-out of high-speed broadband to reach virtually every corner of the globe, and higher quality video conferencing tools that has accelerated the rise in flexible working. In the past ten years advances in technology and connectivity have meant that workers can be anywhere in the world and still dial in for a face-to-face meeting, receive emails and messages and access shared documents. 

Improved communication tech

Email, Skype, Slack – all provide a way for employees or freelancers to work flexibly whilst still maintaining communication. Meetings are far more effective when video is used and instant-messaging tools make it simple to communicate quickly and efficiently just as if you’ve nipped into a colleague’s office.   

Cloud computing

Cloud-based solutions have made global collaborative working entirely possible. Developed to improve workforce communication and employee management both across the globe and within a local organisation, cloud tech has ensured safe, secure and accurate flexible working. Live, shared document editing, collaborative project management notes, shared data – all can be stored on the cloud. It provides an online platform for employees to access wherever and whenever essential to creating flexible working opportunities that work for both the business and the employee. 

The future of tech-enabled flexible working

The imminent adoption and roll-out of 5G will be a game-changer when it comes to flexible working. 5G will also rapidly speed up the development of AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), which will connect us in a way not experienced before. Imagine joining a meeting from home and being in that meeting via a holograph rather than a through a shaky image on a screen. You could meet with colleagues from across the globe in a virtual space and it will be just like they’re in a room with you. Further, you could transport yourself to a ‘digital twin’ of wherever you need to be, be that a factory, a power station or even a surgery room. In the future surgeons will be able to assist from anywhere in the world using immersive 3D holograms. Currently, jobs that necessitate physical manipulation or presence cannot be done remotely. This will change that. 

5G will aid the transition from remote working to virtual working, where anything is possible and recruiters will be able to search from a truly global talent pool for any industry sector. For now, though, technology provides a way for organisations to both offer flexible working opportunities and to recruit someone who already works flexibly. What is essential is that companies invest in technology that enables this. Emma Stewart, CEO of Timewise, warns that the “sophisticate and increasingly cautious” candidates in today’s market “seek reassurance that firms have undertaken the necessary due diligence to be able to provide realistically flexible roles – rather than ones that are flex in name only.

Wave is proud to have hosted its 2nd Talent Matters event on February 27th, this time focusing on flexible working and the impact it’s having on the recruitment industry. We feel there has never been a better time to talk about flexible talent and engaged Emma Stewart, CEO and Co-founder of leading flexible working consultancy Timewise. She talked alongside best-selling author of ‘Competitive People Strategy’ Kevin Green, as well as Dave Jenkins, CEO of award-winning Wave

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