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Closing Statement

Emma-mcguigan-accenture-80x80

Emma McGuigan

Managing Director, Technology at Accenture

In the blue corner

We welcome the debate that the topic of remote versus office working has generated. Technology has brought about huge changes to the way we work, the workforce has become increasingly diverse and employee expectations have evolved.

Karen-chisman-sas-uk-80x80

Karen Chisman

Head of Corporate Services at SAS UK

In the orange corner

It was interesting to read Emma’s comment that, despite the prevalence of remote working, Accenture’s offices are ”busy and vibrant places”. Much of what Emma describes is exactly what we at SAS aim to achieve.

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

Madeline Bennett

The INQUIRER Editor

Moderator

We're reaching the end point of what has been a lively, well-argued and interactive debate, and reading through all of your comments it's clear that many of us workers want and expect the best of both worlds.

Detailed statements

Emma-mcguigan-accenture-80x80 Proposer
Emma McGuigan

Managing Director, Technology at Accenture

We welcome the debate that the topic of remote versus office working has generated. Technology has brought about huge changes to the way we work, the workforce has become increasingly diverse and employee expectations have evolved. Yet when it comes to finding the best ways to manage and respond to this new world of work, companies don’t necessarily have all the answers and that’s why we need to share our experiences and learn from each other.

We agree that there’s no one size fits all approach – for organisations or for individuals. Accenture has embraced remote working, and we’re preserving our office space too. We believe that virtual and office working can co-exist within companies, but that in the future offices will need to work harder to justify their existence. They should strive to offer a stimulating, inspiring space, fully equipped with the technologies and resources that enhance collaboration and creative thinking.

For me, this means using one of Accenture’s Telepresence suites so I can effectively meet face to face with global team members from Hong Kong to San Francisco, or hosting a client workshop in the innovation centre at our London office, where we showcase our industry experience, technology prototypes and primary research. However, for much of my day to day work I’ll choose the peace and quiet of working from home, supported by a rich suite of digital tools.

It’s this freedom and choice that our employees value most, as people seek more control over their working lives and flexible working becomes an expectation, not a perk. This was reinforced to us recently when we surveyed business executives from medium to large organisations across 33 countries, and found that work-life balance topped respondents’ definitions of career success, ahead of money and recognition, while 80 percent reported that having flexibility in their working life was extremely or very important to work-life balance.

The debate around what we gain or lose with remote working in terms of productivity, team building and ideas generation is an interesting one, yet how can we draw conclusions when employees each have their own unique mix of motivations, styles of working and personal life circumstances? At Accenture, our working policies will always be guided by one of our core values – respect for the individual. More specifically, we respect and work to understand what our people need to be successful, and we make sure we’re proactive in offering those options – including flexible working – that most effectively support their needs and the needs of our clients.

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

Head of Corporate Services at SAS UK

It was interesting to read Emma’s comment that, despite the prevalence of remote working, Accenture’s offices are ”busy and vibrant places”. Much of what Emma describes is exactly what we at SAS aim to achieve.

In our opening statement we wrote of a “phased transition from working places to meeting places, central hubs focused on delivering a superior client experience”. We are firm in our belief that such 'Hubs'  accommodate differing roles, personalities and work styles, that they offer opportunities for individuals to socialise, interact and collaborate, all contributing to drive personal and team productivity. Many of us carry out multiple tasks during the working day, so Hubs afford us the opportunity to select the best immediate environment for a variety of tasks, whether it be a creative space, a phone booth, quiet space, a desk or a confidential team discussion over coffee and, of course, all this is accessible to remote and homeworkers too.

Your readers’ comments reinforce the human factors in this subject; we are all unique, so for some the thought of wandering upstairs to work in the spare room is unbearable, while for others it just works. The technology, specifically internet and download speeds in some areas, can be a source of frustration, not to mention those travelling between client sites on public transport, with oversized laptops (encrypted of course and another subject entirely), power packs and possibly two other devices. ‘Over compensating’ exists in some organisations where staff think, "I’m working remotely or at home and need to prove I really am working by sending more emails than required."

How do you successfully embed the ethos and cultural aspects of your company in a remote worker as well as engender loyalty? Reader John Harper’s comment relating to the intransigence, or omnipotence, of some managers resonated - many of us will have experienced this in our careers. There is no place for a ‘line of sight’ management style in a flexible working environment, and hopefully they can be persuaded to adopt a different approach.

Technology will evolve, maybe even to one device, and at SAS we’ll look to our employees, global colleagues and the experiences of other successful companies, like Accenture, to mitigate some of the above challenges. We will further develop our collaboration and communication tools from good to great and, as previously stated, manage the transition to new ways of working through the provision of training, support and technology to assist our people in the mutually successful adoption of new working practices.

In conclusion, and with reference to our opening statement, the office is certainly not dead - just evolving and adapting to the numerous opportunities and challenges facing us all in a digital age.

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

The INQUIRER Editor

We're reaching the end point of what has been a lively, well-argued and interactive debate. Our two main protaganists, Karen Chisman from SAS and Emma McGuigan from Accenture, have made clear their views, as has Intel's Stuart Dommett in his guest spot.

Reading through all the comments, it's clear that many of us workers want the best of both worlds.

On the one hand, we want to have an office serving as a central hub that we can visit as often as suits us to work from, meet with colleagues and enjoy some social interaction. On the other hand, we want the option to work flexibly and remotely based on our individual preferences.

The sticking point that occurs to me is that businesses will not want to keep paying for office space and permanent desks, if staff are going to work remotely some or most of the time. So the way of the future seems to be hot desks and meeting points, rather than rows of desks equipped with PCs and phones. But will this model suit all workers, and maintain or enhance productivity?

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Closing Statement