One of the core pillars in the recently released UK Digital Strategy is ensuring that every industry across the UK can benefit from digital innovation – using technology to level up the UK. As recognised in the strategy, technology is crucial to spreading prosperity across the UK. The Levelling Up White Paper highlighted the importance of digital connectivity to this agenda. Government research shows that strengthening regional digital ecosystems could grow the digital sector’s gross value by an additional £41.5 billion by 2025, creating 678,000 jobs.
This emphasis on place is aligning with our changing relationship with our offices. We recognise our workplaces as spaces for collaboration instead of merely desks in a different location to our home office. As such, we’re extracting more value from the time spent in both. Many sectors have experienced the benefits of flexible and hybrid working, and technology is helping make the transition between the office and home more and more seamless. The change to fully flexible and hybrid-by-default working brings many benefits, including helping to enable further equality throughout the UK – with technology’s support.
The future of work in the UK will further embrace technology to be more flexible and innovate faster – meaning there will be a broader range of opportunities tomorrow for the students of today to start, grow and work for businesses throughout the UK.
Why is hybrid working here to stay?
Coming out of the ‘Great Reshuffle’, hybrid working is here to stay, and we’ll be all the better for it. We have an opportunity to reform traditional working models and focus on creating an inclusive future of work for employees and businesses everywhere. Shifting to the digital world was necessary for companies to continue operations throughout the pandemic and supply chain disruptions. In the future, it will allow them to flourish.
We have already seen more flexibility, better work-life balance, higher productivity, and decreased staff turnover – and this is only the beginning. McKinsey conducted a survey in nine key economic countries, including the US, China and India, among whom 45% of respondents had more confidence in their productivity whilst working from home in May 2020.
For businesses, digital technology adaption leads to greater productivity. The Office for National Statistics found that SMEs that use two or more business management technologies exhibit productivity gains of up to 25%. The Digital Strategy recognises the importance of digital, stating that more significant digital innovation across the economy will provide larger markets for the UK’s digital businesses, fuelling their continued growth and success.
Levelling up the UK and building resilience across UK businesses can be driven by the government continuing to put technology into the hands of businesses and supporting new business models.
What does our hybrid future look like?
Digital transformation in business is possible thanks to cloud technologies and mobile devices. Cloud and connectivity technologies will help enterprises perform better and provide a better employee experience. Companies can secure remote access to data, applications and collaborative tools using this emerging tech.
When workplaces implement 5G, the days of colleagues awkwardly talking over each other will be gone, along with glitchy technology and lagging connections. A recent Dell Technologies study showed that using slow and glitchy technologies resulted in participants being 29% more stressed than singing in public. Collaboration can become a smoother process, with less time spent troubleshooting personal technology.
The full potential of 5G makes it software-defined, giving security control back to IT departments. Business information will be better protected, allowing employees to work securely from anywhere. Going full steam ahead, VR and, in time, the fully immersive metaverse could be our answer to the future of meetings, enabling colleagues using VR headsets at opposite ends of the globe to collaborate in the same virtual room.
With the right infrastructure environment, organisations can increase business benefits. In an Enterprise Strategy Group and Dell Technologies survey, 67% of businesses agreed that effective cloud management reduced costs. Cloud technology also allows additional flexibility. Moving to a hybrid cloud IT model lets SMEs keep pace with larger businesses, enabling them to scale up or down in the face of unexpected changes in their markets and sectors.
How can the public sector help?
The public sector has a huge role in igniting the digital transformation required to make hybrid working a reality for all businesses. It can kick-start innovation through the process of generating new ideas and supporting businesses to take advantage of tech as outlined in the Digital Strategy.
It’s positive to see the government thinking about how to drive innovation, as digital solutions range from smarter procurement, mobilising new forms of innovation financing, creating digital platforms and citizen-centric services, to driving a new entrepreneurial culture among public managers. All of which have an impact on business innovation.
Data overload is one of the biggest blockers in digital transformation. As such, the public sector must first address its own data challenges in order to facilitate hybrid business innovations en masse. It can do that by investing in innovative solutions such as machine learning and analytics to deliver intelligent insights for policy decision-making – all with a robust IT infrastructure and cybersecurity as the backbone.
Secondly, government leadership opens up the opportunity to instil a comprehensive culture reset. The public sector has a pivotal role in influencing the mindset of business leaders. One way to do this is to highlight positive examples, as businesses can learn from digital leaders within their sectors.
Levelling up and supporting all UK businesses to build resilience will not be achieved overnight. All businesses must be able to solidify their hybrid working models, as this is the future of work and will further benefit society by enabling even greater flexibility and resiliency. Now is the time for the public and private sector to work together to continue to support businesses, particularly smaller businesses which form the backbone of so many local communities and national economies.