Each year, BakkerElkhuizen, a Dutch company that specialises in theresearch and development of ergonomic solutions for computer workstations, conducts its IT & Flexible Working survey amongst IT professionals in Germany, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.
BakkerElkhuizen asks IT professionals a variety of questions, aiming to see if the role of the IT department is changing due to the emergence of flexible working throughout Western Europe. The survey asks:
- Flexible working – to what degree is flexible working being accepted and anticipated within your company, and what are the advantages you have found, for example lower costs, higher productivity, better work/life balance?
- IT technologies and tools – how is IT helping employees with flexible working?
- Tasks and responsibilities – to what degree is the IT department involved in decisions concerning flexible working? What is their role and how much influence do they have?
What were the results?
The survey produced some interesting information, not least the huge increase in the number of staff now seeking to spend as least some of their working week away from the traditional office-type environment.
In general, it was clear that a majority of organisations had implemented flexible working in some way, with 65% of UK companies engaged in some level of flexible working. Those surveyed cited ‘working more efficiently’ and ‘greater autonomy for staff’ as the two main reasons for the rise in flexible working within their organisation.
By comparison, only 20% of UK companies contacted had no plans to introduce any form of flexible working. Within this segment, the most commonly given reason was that the organisation sees the physical presence of their employees within the workplace as still being necessary.
What are the challenges facing IT professionals?
Those interviewed described three main challenges associated with the implementation of flexible working – the efficient use of technology by staff; security issues; and managing infrastructure.
In Germany, the UK and Belgium, the use of fixed workplaces is still the most commonly implemented concept, whereas in Holland fixed workplaces are now the case for just over a third of those interviewed. Similarly, Dutch companies were doing most to encourage ‘mobile workplaces’, that is, equipping employees with the relevant devices to enable home working.
IT professionals from all four countries agreed that the laptop was by far the most important tool for flexible working, although this varied between 97% in Belgium and 48% in the UK, where 28% chose the conventional desktop computer. The majority of companies provided their employees with a laptop, although a comparison between the four countries has the UK ranking last in terms of this figure.
Although tablet use for work is increasing year on year, tablets are less frequently provided by organisations, with most employees still purchasing their own device, although the vast majority were using tablets without any kind of ergonomic device to ensure non-stressful working over time.
To the statement ‘Ergonomics is an important point of attention within our IT department’, the response was 21% in Holland, 29% in Belgium, 46% in the UK and 49% in Germany. However, it appeared that the majority of those interviewed were unaware that laptops and tablets require more attention when it comes to healthy working practices.
It’s plain to see that traditional working environments are changing as technology makes working away from an office easier and people increasingly able to request a more equal work/life balance.
The challenge for IT departments, as well as management in general, is to ensure people working away from offices are doing so in a safe and efficient manner, one that not only contributes to their needs as part of the 21st Century company, but also enables them to work productively and comfortably while they do so.