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Slack, a messaging app for business, has today released new research from Economist Impact revealing the scale at which UK industry leaders are shifting to hybrid and agile working. 

The era of the physical office is over 

The report found that 98% of respondents have either rethought their physical office space,  invested in hybrid working technologies, or plan to do so. 

Digital HQs, centralised spaces for work and social interactions that connect people, systems, partners and customers, are a priority, with 71.5% confirming investment in them would increase and over one-third (36%) stating such investments would be ‘significant’. In contrast, in-person workspaces are the area firms are most likely to plan to reduce investment, with one in ten (10.5%) stating this. 

Providing flexible and agile approaches to work may be a key factor driving the increased investment in digital workplaces, as the report found 86.5% of respondents rate flexibility as a medium-to-critical priority. 

“Almost three years into the pandemic, the myth that productivity is tied to the physical office has been truly busted. With employees increasingly wanting to choose when and where they work, the HQ has become digital and the place to bring entire organisations together to collaborate, build teamship and problem solve. As this report confirms, for the UK’s leaders, that digital HQ is increasingly vital, becoming the home for both work and culture. As we look ahead, firms should invest in digital HQ technologies to attract talent, build trust and unlock the competitive benefits of an agile and flexible future of work,” commented Pip White, Senior Vice President and General Manager, EMEA at Slack.

New ways of working are needed to overcome hybrid challenges 

Advancing from legacy business practises, however, doesn’t come without challenges, the research found. Ability to collaborate was the aspect most likely to have worsened during the pandemic with 12.5% highlighting this. However, leaders are responding rapidly, with 69.5% confirming investment in workplace tech will increase in the next three years. 

Further, in the era of the ‘Great Resignation’, employee retention has suffered for 11.5% of organisations—more so than customer retention which had fallen for just 9%. This suggests that meeting demand for talent is becoming more challenging than securing buyers—reinforcing the need to create workplaces that use technology to empower teams and boost flexibility. Over half (52%) confirmed that empowering teams with collaborative workplace tools and technologies is an area in which improvement is needed. 

Online supermarket Ocado has rethought its tech stack to enable greater remote collaboration and improved culture. At the heart of this change has been Slack, and as Clifford Bailey,  Head of Partnerships, APAC at Ocado explains, this has improved access to information and streamlined internal communication: “The fantastic thing about Slack is transparency. Everyone can see what everyone else is working on and the status of things is much more visible. For the first time, you can overhear a conversation in a remote office and everyone can get involved.”

Investment in employee experience and agile technology is key to digital HQ success 

In this changed landscape, over two-thirds of UK business leaders (67.5%) confirmed that agility is now more important than ever. 

According to respondents, there are a number of factors that are crucial when building an agile workplace. In employees, 35.5% see effective communication with colleagues across functions and levels as key—highlighting a need for open and transparent collaboration. 

Meanwhile, 92.5% confirm that fast and flexible resource allocation processes are a medium or higher business priority, with over one-third (34.5%) listing it as critical. Culture, too, is increasingly seen as a core lever for increased agility. 55.5% highlighted that providing more opportunities to socialise, collaborate, and innovate were needed to increase business agility. 

“In an era of hybrid work, with teams spread across offices and remote locations, the digital HQ is key to agility. It’s encouraging to see the UK’s leaders focusing investment on tools which allow culture to flourish digitally. These technologies allow us to unlock the intrinsic benefits of flexible, hybrid and agile work while building meaningful cultures, no longer tied to a physical office or a 9-5 mindset. As work continues to evolve, agility and the digital HQ will enable all businesses to adapt to change, secure talent, and collaborate more effectively than ever,” concludes White.

Learn more about this research by downloading the full ‘Embracing agility in a time of disruption’ Economist Impact report here

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