Quiet please. How flexible working is heralding a new generation of intrapreneurs

Modern job specifications would have us believe that unless we’re all outgoing team players, who enjoy working under pressure, then there’s no room for us in today’s workplace. But what about those of us who are content working alone?

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Some of us are happier in quiet surroundings and experience greater well-being without distractions of office gossip and fire alarm drills. In many ways, flexible working could mean a new generation of successful intrepreneurs. As Susan Cain explains in her book Quiet: “They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams.

Although they are often labeled 'quiet', it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society-from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

Something that solopreneurs have known for years is that flexible working has its advantages. Why pay to rent a work space when you can create your own space at home? Makes sense, right? But what advantages might this modern day philosophy bring to big companies? Writing on his blog recently, Richard Branson concluded that “choice and empowerment makes for a more content workforce.”

Around 10% of US employees now regularly work from home and according to a recent experiment conducted by Stanford University; flexible working can increase performance levels by 13%. Traditionally, office-based nine to fives were the working standard and despite some large companies recently attempting work from home reversals, more and more companies are adopting flexible working policies. Which begs the question: do these companies know something others don’t?

Well, for one, companies who promote flexible working no longer have to recruit within a specific radius; instead, they are able to find the right person for the job without being restricted by commuting time.

Coupled with modern technology, flexible working presents companies with opportunities that until recently were out with their reach - video conferencing has become the new water cooler, and virtual whiteboards, the new brainstorming meetings.

And for those who find working from the confines of their own home too restrictive, there’s always the option of occupying a co-working space. 

An increasingly popular trend, ‘collaborative working’ as it’s known, may well be the happy medium between office space and home space. Working from a desk in an office, operating on your own with the use of Wi-Fi and kitchen facilities, is considered the perfect balance for many employees who don’t live close to their employers’ office. According to a co-working survey conducted in 2012, the number of remote working locations that year, increased by 83% worldwide, and the number of people using co-working spaces increased by 117%.

Looking back to Richard Branson’s point of creating a more content workforce, flexible working could also mean happier, healthier employees. Is the playing field now being levelled to suit those of us who prefer a more restrained working environment? Is work becoming an activity people do rather than a place people go? And is this a good thing?

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