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Comparison of Attitudes to Flexi-Work

Dec 18, 2007
Revolutionary innovations in communication technology render distances less restrictive. The transition from analogue to digital has increased the carrying capacity and richness of communications and has further accelerated the process of distance compression.

Regardless of the successes of digital communications, it is important not to overstate the gains. Even with ever-improving digital communications we are still bound by the physical reality of space. The avalanche of bold predictions spurred by the popularity of the Internet in the late 1990s evaporated after the dot commercial bubble precisely because the vision did not correspond to the reality.

The current generation of communications tools could fare better. Less encumbered by hubristic visions and backed by a solid network infrastructure, today's digital communications are already making a tangible difference. One of the aspects of these changes is the engendering of new working patterns.

Today, the workplace can be anywhere and workers can interact with colleagues and clients wherever they are. Flexible work patterns bring real benefits by enabling a more responsive organisation and reducing demand for expensive centralised office space and the associated commuting costs. This can also open entirely new business opportunities by widening the pool of employees, collaborators and clients.

Finally, flexible working can improve the morale of the existing workforce by accommodating their preferences in terms of location and scheduling.

Attitudes to flexi-work vary across countries, enterprise size-bands and organisational roles.

The survey confirms an absence of a clear stance on flexible working due to different legislative frameworks, communications infrastructures and operational conditions present in different countries, enterprise size-bands and organisational roles. According to IT managers surveyed, almost one third of organisations (29%) do not offer flexi-work at all, over a half of organisations (56%) support flexi-work actively and the remainder offers flexi-work, but not with active IT support.

With respect to attitudes towards flexi-work, organisations from different countries exhibit distinct traits. Some countries have a high incidence (up to 75%) of organisations that support flexi-work and provide active IT support. If the organisations that offer flexible working without active support are included, the number offering some form of flexi-work reaches 90%. This, in fact, is the case in France, the leading country in terms of flexi-work support. Switzerland and Australia may be viewed as equally good examples of such a pattern.

By contrast to its widespread support in most of the markets surveyed, only 55% of US organisations actively support flexible working. A mere 5% offer flexi-work without active IT support. This makes organisations in the US more akin to those in Asia than those in Western Europe and Australia. In Asia, just under a quarter of organisations offer flexi-work and IT support. In MEA a majority of organisations offer flexi-work, but most of them do not offer active support to go with it.

Although the pattern can be interpreted in a variety of ways, it is clear that the adoption of unified communications is not the principal reason behind the decision to support flexi-work. For example, the Composite Unified Communications Maturity index (see appendix), indicates that the first and the third most advanced markets in terms of unified communications adoption, the US and Asia lag behind in terms of offering flexi-work. Clearly, the reasons are to be sought in regulatory frameworks and the structure of the employment market and not in the communications infrastructure.

It is also interesting to note that in the US very few organisations offer flexible working without IT support associated (5%), whereas in the MEA region a far higher proportion (37%) do. The US pattern can be explained by highly regulated IT governance that restricts the scope for the informal support of flexi-work. In MEA, less established infrastructure is forcing enterprises to delegate IT support for flexi-working to employees.
About the Author
Datacraft is the leading independent IT services and solutions company in Asia Pacific. Datacraft combines an expertise in networking, security, Microsoft solutions, storage and contact centre technologies, with advanced skills in consulting, integration and managed services, to craft IT solutions for businesses.
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