Something remarkable happened in the summer of 2012. Whilst Team GB was breaking every medal target in the ring, on the track and in the saddle, a nation of workers was watching them.
Whilst some of these would have been watching on cunningly hidden smartphones with one sly earphone smuggled out of view, others would have been sat at home, or in a coffee shop, or simply anywhere they could get an internet connection. In Britain this year more people than ever were reaping the benefits of a more flexible approach to work.
An Olympic Legacy
Research has shown 13% of organisations in the capital adopted a more flexible approach to working during the Olympic Games. This was largely welcomed, with 77% of workers saying they were in favour of the measures.
Of course, this is not all to do with people enjoying being able to watch Bradley Wiggins, and 'coincidentally' realising the benefits of flexible working hours. Support for this way of working has been growing over recent years, and it looks to play a significant part in the future of the workplace: 74% of 'Generation Y' workers believe the flexible working patterns many enjoyed over the summer will increasingly become the norm.
A Virtual Revolution
Some of this correlates to the increasing array of software that facilitates remote working. Advances in web-apps such as Google Drive, which allow people to store documents digitally ('in the cloud'), and access them on a range of different devices from remote locations have massively increased the potential for flexible working. They mean employees no longer always have to go to the office to access many of the documents they need.
Earlier this year, Citrix reported 24% of businesses currently make use of such technologies; a figure that they predict will rise to 83% by 2013. It is also predicted that the level of people working remotely will rise to almost a third of the workforce in this period.
In addition 4G has just begun to roll out across the UK. Whilst coverage is by no means comprehensive at the minute, over the next decade mobile data speeds could increase, and rival those of a domestic connection. This has the potential to be a further key factor in encouraging people to work remotely!
It's not just when, where and how we're working, but also what we're doing. Since 2008 the worldwide economy has been languishing in a particularly sorry state. However, what has not been diminished is the inventive mind of the British small business owner. The unrelenting tide of entrepreneurial genius in the face of economic adversity is a further factor in how we are revolutionising the way we work.
Whilst a huge number of workers are being made redundant, many of these are seeing this as a valuable opportunity. Some 25% of the respondents to a recent report into self-employment said they began working for themselves after losing their job.
A Shared Future?
A swathe of redundancies leads to a swathe of abandoned workstations. What of these empty desks left behind? They could be left to gather dust in the corner as sad monuments to former workers, or they could be put to good use. An increasing number of businesses are choosing to make the most of these spare desks by renting them out to other organisations looking for desk space.
These can be a great option for everyone involved. The host business can monetise space that would otherwise be wasted, while those renting the desks can get a really affordable office option that's set up and ready to go! It's an oddly poetic circle of (work) life; more redundancies means more empty desks which are ideal for freelance startups.
So, if you want further evidence as to whether we're revolutionising the way we work, you simply need to look at where we're working. More people are taking up berths in alternative office space and an increasing number are working where they want and when they want. This sounds awfully like a revolution to me!