The fourth industrial revolution: Remote and flexible working

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us, where industries face waves of disruption that change the very nature of production systems and work itself. The pace of change is astronomical and businesses must be flexible and agile to adapt to changing norms on all fronts. Some of the biggest trends include flexible and remote working, enabled by technological innovation.

The Changing Nature of Work 

The cubicle culture of the 1990s is gone, replaced by open-plan offices and flexible working arrangements that allow employees to work from anywhere, but also expect that employees be available at any time. From smartphones that offer anytime, instant access to company email accounts to cloud-based platforms that let employees work and collaborate from anywhere, new technologies have made the traditional office concept irrelevant.

Sure, not everyone can or wants to work remotely, but many employees enjoy location independence. Employees appreciate remote working because they can live in less expensive areas, essentially enjoying a raise due to lower cost of living. Flexible work hours also allow employees to work when it’s most convenient for them, rather than adhere to the traditional 9-to-5 schedule. Everyone from night owls to new moms can appreciate the flexibility in choosing individual schedules.  Remote employees may be happier, since they can live where they want and save time due to lack of commutes.

A Harvard Business Review study found that remote working was good for the environment: Workers drove 8 million fewer miles for a reduction in carbon emissions of 44,000 tons. 

Flexible and remote working arrangements benefit businesses too. Harvard Business School found that employees with flexible working arrangements are over 4 percent more productive than employees with more rigid working arrangements (including employees who can work from home but must live near the office). Greater productivity leads to increased profits, thus helping businesses to be more profitable and have the resources to pivot when disruption makes change necessary.

Flexible and Remote Working Tools 

Organizations that adopt remote and flexible work practices need the tools that allow employees to connect and collaborate from home. Online collaboration tools include project management systems, which organize initiatives and create accountability systems, so everyone knows what to do, and online conference tools, including video conference capabilities. 

An online whiteboard is a simple yet effective tool for visualization, brainstorming, and collaboration. An online whiteboard such as HuddleBoard saves and stores previous discussions so you can always look back on what’s been done. The ability to have an online conference within the online whiteboard system means that all employees can chime in on brainstorms, PDFs, presentation slides, documents, and other files, and the cloud nature lets you take your whiteboard anywhere.

Due to the rapid pace of transformation engendered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, employers will need to foresee new changes, adapt to trends, and pivot quickly to stay competitive in their industry.