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Opening Statements

Emma-mcguigan-accenture-80x80

Emma McGuigan

Managing Director, Technology at Accenture

In the blue corner

Flexible working is deeply rooted within Accenture’s culture - and that includes remote working.

Karen-chisman-sas-uk-80x80

Karen Chisman

Head of Corporate Services at SAS UK

In the orange corner

Much has been written in relation to the future of work and specifically, flexible working, with the phrase ‘demise of the office’ becoming more prevalent in the media. However, we at SAS would suggest significant and positive change, or evolution, as opposed to ‘demise’!

Madeline-bennett-v3-and-inquirer-editor-80x80 moderator

Madeline Bennett

The INQUIRER Editor

Moderator

Going to the office or working remotely? Many organisations are considering this question as technology advances and mobile uptake has opened up new ways of working.

Detailed statements

Emma-mcguigan-accenture-80x80 Proposer
Emma McGuigan

Managing Director, Technology at Accenture

Flexible working is deeply rooted within Accenture’s culture - and that includes remote working. In addition to our office locations around the world, we’ve embraced technology to enable many of our employees to work virtually.
 
The move towards remote working was a natural one for us. The nature of Accenture’s business – consulting and technology – lends itself to virtual working, as many of our employees travel regularly and work on-site with clients.  As a global company serving clients in 120 countries, we work seamlessly across borders and time zones, often as part of global teams. Therefore for us, the idea of a physical office space being the only place to work harks back to a bygone era.  Today, technology helps make working almost anywhere productive, with the potential to be a hub of knowledge exchange, collaboration and team-building.
 
Our shift toward virtual working during the last 10 years has been supported by technological advancements.  We use collaboration tools including our Knowledge Exchange platform and intranet portals, as well as instant messaging, screen sharing, and networking sites such as Chatter and Yammer. Using these platforms, our employees can share information, interact and stay connected with colleagues and communities in our global network. We also use video chat and Telepresence – a high-definition videoconferencing tool that makes people across multiple geographies feel like they’re in the same room.
 
The benefits of virtual working are multifold.  Not only does it reduce travel costs and environmental impacts, it also drives employee job satisfaction. Finding that elusive balance between our work and personal lives is now the mantra for employees across generations, and the option to work flexibly can help them achieve this. We’re constantly evolving our business to meet client demands, so why wouldn’t we adapt our working practices to keep pace with employee expectations? Ultimately, Accenture’s success depends on our ability to attract and retain the best people, and flexible working helps us to reap the rewards of an engaged, productive workforce.

Karen-chisman-sas-uk-80x80 opposer
Karen Chisman

Head of Corporate Services at SAS UK

Much has been written in relation to the future of work and specifically, flexible working, with the phrase ‘demise of the office’ becoming more prevalent in the media. However, we at SAS would suggest significant and positive change, or evolution, as opposed to ‘demise’!

Rather than focus on a lack of demand for workplaces or offices, we prefer to adopt a blended approach to the future of work; a phased transition from working places to meeting places, central hubs focused on delivering a superior client experience, designed to educate and inform as well as to support and facilitate collaboration and interaction amongst employees.

What might these ‘hubs’ look like? Although still a concept for SAS, we expect to create a model which includes a mix of meeting & training spaces, designed to inspire, some formal and some specifically designed to effect innovation & creativity, therefore non- traditional. The boundaries between our working lives and social lives are blurring, our spaces will reflect that and draw upon a wide range of experience options to deliver increased productivity, interaction and adaptive thinking. We will introduce the concept of ‘soft phones’ where appropriate, a one device fits all approach as opposed to multiple devices and bulky desk phones, whilst ensuring that those roles that rely on desk spaces still have access to them. In short, a workplace which acts as an enabler for remote working as well as dynamic on site working, a future where technology works to our advantage in a holistic sense.

Technological innovations have and will continue to enable a more mobile and globally connected workforce. However, technology is not the only driver of change in the workplace. The introduction of flexible working statutes and a ‘right to request’ to increase workforce participation, particularly for parents, and to address long and short term labour shortages, has, and will continue to have, a considerable impact on workplaces.

Many successful, progressive organisations are empowering their employees to work whenever and from wherever they choose, with their employees’ needs, productivity and measurable output used as drivers.  In this scenario the ‘office’ acts as a hub designed to facilitate a wide range of activities which employees can tap into, and this approach delivers results.

As we move into the future of work it is critical that we align the design of our workplaces with our need to engage in multiple activities (including our basic human need to interact with each other) and consider the high degree of mobility required to do this. Future work will see us discover a need for a multitude of alternative working practices and patterns; rather than simply reacting to the challenges this brings in terms of management, training and interaction, we will develop a framework of tools and techniques to support continual evolvement.

In summary, there is no one size fits all, as each organisation is unique and as such will plan its future working solutions to balance the needs of its business with that of its greatest asset, its employees. But at SAS we are working towards an evolution, rather than the demise of the office.

Madeline-bennett-v3-and-inquirer-editor-80x80 moderator
Madeline Bennett

The INQUIRER Editor

Going to the office or working remotely? Many organisations are considering this question as technology advances and mobile uptake has opened up new ways of working.

In this week-long debate, we'll be debating all the key points. Should firms downsize to smaller offices, or bother having an office at all?

Is it okay to expect employees to work remotely, rather than offering them a suitable workplace?

What are the best technologies available to support new ways of working?

Will productivity suffer if firms don't give their staff opportunities to meet and collaborate face to face?

And one that always crops up when remote working is being considered: can staff be trusted to work outside of the office, or are they just sat on the sofa watching The Jeremy Kyle Show and checking a few emails?

We really want to hear your views on all the above questions, as well your reactions to the debate speakers and guest. Please tell us via the comment tool on the right, and remember to cast your vote for either the office is dead, or remote working is the future.

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Opening Statements