THE BLOG
11/20/2012 03:37 pm ET Updated Jan 20, 2013

Flexible Force: Learning From the Olympics' Legacy and Embracing Change

If 2012 will be remembered for one thing it will likely be the Olympics. And if companies remember one thing in particular from the Olympics it'll be the fear factor surrounding the disruption the Games could have inflicted to business-as-usual operations. Above everything else, the Olympics was a watershed moment for flexible and home working -- as speculation around transport delays reached fever pitch, and many companies finally accepted that workers could be more productive working away from the office.

It's a controversial issue that's never quite out of the spotlight. Just recently, Nick Clegg unveiled plans to overhaul the family-friendly leave system and enable women to share maternity leave with their partners, in order to help working families. Some have supported the action, others have criticized it, and many have highlighted the logistical challenges of implementing it. What has been frequently referred to, throughout, is the cultural change taking place in organizations that is dictating the need for more emphasis on flexible working strategies.

Parents might have hit the headlines recently, but there are other demographics driving change in the way businesses operate. I recently worked on a report with SunGard Availability Services, finding that young, technology-savvy and mobile-ready employees are entering the workforce with new expectations for 24/7 access to resources and applications, regardless of time and location. Initially at odds with older, more established workers, entrenched in company culture and their specific ways of working, the top new talent of 'Generation Y' is challenging the way organizations go about their business.

The overarching trend behind this is the new expectations we all have towards businesses and their services and offerings. We're digital, we're social, we're global and completely connected at all times of the day, meaning there is literally no window for companies to be less than fully functional.

Fortunately, technology and resources have developed to match this demand. BYOD is no longer just a buzzword - tablets and smartphones have become more advanced, offering the latest technology in the palms of workers' hands, enabling them to be truly functional on the move. What's more, ongoing developments in 4G and network connectivity are ensuring data-heavy files and applications can be effectively accessed from practically any location. We're also seeing companies like Regus, the world's largest provider of flexible workplaces, partner with companies like SunGard to offer a greater amount of temporary workplace facilities, if companies do need to relocate for a certain amount of time.

The bottom line? Resources can now be put in place to close the book on companies suffering from downtime. It's now over to the senior management to listen to the various demographics of their workforce and accept that change can be a positive, rather than purely disruptive force. Finally, resources need to be put in place to cater for new ways of working, so that more can enjoy the flexibility and productivity we had during the summer of sport.