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UK - Companies struggling to keep pace with technological advances

02 December 2011

The majority of UK bosses are working longer hours, have higher workloads and are more stressed compared with ten years ago, according to a survey carried out by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), released today. The survey of over 1,300 workers to mark ILM's tenth anniversary, reveals that UK employers are not realising the potential of new technologies to revolutionise the way they work.
 
Although nearly half (49%) of respondents have seen an increase in remote working in the past decade, 35% have seen no change and 10% have seen a reduction. The average commute has increased by five minutes from 44 minutes in 2001 to 49 minutes in 2011, and despite the advent of video conferencing, Skype and other communications technologies, business travel has increased significantly over the past 10 years. Nearly two-fifths (39%) of managers now travel a lot more for business within the UK compared to 10 years ago, with only 26% travelling less.

The results show that nearly half (46%) are working longer hours compared to ten years ago. Just over half (51%) feel more stressed at work and younger managers under 35 are the most stressed, with three-fifths (71%) reporting an increase in stress over the last ten years as they have progressed up the career ladder. Two-thirds (67%) reported higher workloads today than ten years ago, and two-fifths (39%) felt their work life balance was worse now. As a result, a third (32%) stated they were less happy at work.

Peter Cheese, chairman of the Institute of Leadership & Management, commented "over the last ten years, the workplace has become much more challenging for managers. Mobile technology brings with it a pressure to respond quickly and a temptation to work longer hours, which is impacting on stress levels. While technology also offers a huge opportunity for organisations to enable staff to work smarter, the fact that business travel and commuting times are increasing, shows that many firms are missing that opportunity."

Respondents reported an average of about 40 more emails per day compared to ten years ago, and 5% reported at least 100 more per day. PCs (57%) and laptops (44%) topped the list of technology bosses could not live without, whilst the tools that managers wish hadn't been invented were mobile phones (29%) and BlackBerry (27%).

Two-thirds (67%) felt technology has made their job easier, although nearly a fifth (18%) felt it made their job a little or a lot harder. Younger managers were much more positive about the case for technology in the workplace with 78% in favour compared to 9%. The more technophobic responses came from managers over 50, with 25% saying it has made their job a lot harder.  

Cheese continued "although it was thought that technology, such as video conferencing and teleconferencing, would revolutionise the way we work the results of our survey do not support this. It's easy to see why some organisations and their IT departments are struggling to keep pace with technological advances, but they should be on the front foot and have a coherent strategy for its use in the workplace. Clear guidelines on email, social media and smart phone usage would help bosses set the right tone and make sure staff know what is expected of them."
 
"We hope that over the next ten years we will see technologies really having an impact, especially given younger managers are much more enthusiastic about its role in the workplace. The Institute of Leadership & Management has been working with futurologist Dr Ian Pearson to see what the next ten years may hold. Pearson believes that 3D technology will revolutionise virtual meetings, while cordless energy, augmented reality and the miniaturisation of IT are all within the realms of possibility in the next ten years."

"These have the potential to truly transform the workplace, and managers need to look at future requirements and the capability of current infrastructure to supply an environment that will get the best out of their staff, not one that is tied to PCs, desks and cables."

Technology managers could not live without (respondents were asked to select as many as they wished).

1. PC 57%
2. Laptop 44%
3. Mobile phone 28%
4. BlackBerry 18%
5. iPhone 13%
6. iPad 6%
7. iPod 3%

Technology they wish had not been invented.

1. Mobile phone 29%
2. BlackBerry 27%
3. iPhone 7%
4. Desktop PC 5%
5. Laptop 5%
6. iPod 4%
7. iPad 2%

ILM's futurologist's predictions, could the following be coming to an office near you?

Artificial intelligence - towards the end of the decade, computer-based intelligence will provide much of the effort in many jobs. Employees will concentrate more on the human aspects of their work, which are harder to automate.

Visors & 3D immersion - semi-transparent visors are coming soon and some of these will enable a fully immersive 3d experience, with a separate display in front of each eye. Together with fingertip tracking and gesture recognition, this will give a whole new interface to our computing, even with virtual keyboards.

Augmented reality - the convergence of the virtual and physical worlds. Enabling superposition of graphics everywhere we go will give marketers, games manufacturers, retailers, fashion designers, architects and social network designers a whole new platform to play with.
 
Restructuring - company structures are changing rapidly and this trend will accelerate as the web matures, automation increases, skill shortages increase, and global labour costs change, all in parallel with changing regulation.

Miniaturisation - today's IT will reduce in size potentially to digital jewellery and smart dust. This is good for sustainability, requiring far less physical resource for the same functionality and quality of life value.
 
Cordless Energy - as well as wireless communications, tomorrow's electronic devices will almost all be cordless for power too.

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