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Working practices lag technology adoption
01 April 2008
View from the Top: Gareth Williams of Interoute. Businesses have been quick to adopt new technologies to promote the efficiency of executives over the last decade, but there's still further benefits to be gained
Gareth Williams: technology helps with personal
productivity but there's no effect on working hours
Much is made in the media of the UK being a place of long
working hours and stress. Best-practice working and time
efficiency is high on the agenda of all organisations, yet the
UK bosses are still working longer than their counterparts
elsewhere in Europe, according to a survey by Interoute of
1,050 C-level executives across seven European countries.
Communication technologies across the world have brought
tremendous efficiencies to business. With a firm eye on cost
control, companies have been quick to embrace new technologies,
reaping the financial and personal productivity benefits that
The rate of adoption of technology over the last decade has
been prolific. Our survey into communications technology usage
in Europe found that Instant Messenger is used by 56% of
respondents, the mobile phone is close to saturation, telephone
and voice conferencing are day-to-day tools for more than 37%
of business and voice over IP penetration is around a
Between 2006 and 2007 Interoute itself cut travel by 35%
despite growing its headcount by more than 100 people, thanks
to the roll-out of video conferencing. Moves such as this are
leading to a truly borderless European society, where
communications knows no boundaries and enhancing the clout of
European businesses in the global market place.
But while businesses have been quick to benefit, individuals
are not yet feeling the impact on their working week —
at least in terms of working hours. This is in spite of
technologies that are designed to help with personal
According to the Interoute study, 34% of professionals work
more than 60 hours a week, with more than 55% saying that
working hours had increased rather than decreased since
Business culture and trust still has some way to go to catch up
with the pace of technology over the last decade. It's now
possible to eliminate what would otherwise be dead time at
airports on trains, and in hotels.
Breaking down boundaries
Virtual private networks extend the reach of a local area
network over the internet so that a user is able to access the
same applications and services as if they were in an office.
Voice over IP releases a phone from the desktop and calls can
be routed to a soft phone on a PC, a mobile or a home
And technologies such as instant messaging that enable real
time conversations online and video or web conferencing help
cut down on meetings and the need to travel to different
The Interoute study found that more than 70% of respondents
believed that adopting modern business communication tools had
reduced the amount of time they spend liaising in person with
colleagues, partners and customers.
That is not to say that technology could ever eliminate the
need for direct contact. Sales, new introductions and line
management are among some of the relationship-based meetings
that need to be done face-to-face. Likewise any situation where
there is a need to address conflict or a sensitive issue.
There are plenty of superb examples of best practice. Forward
looking organisations have used communications technology to
embrace flexible working, removing boundaries and enabling
employees to split their time between working from home, on the
road or in an office, eliminating travel time and removing many
of the day-to-day distractions of an office.
Security and environmental benefits
But there are other often unforeseen benefits. Technology to
support flexible working provides an excellent defence against
unforeseen events and can go some way to reducing business's
carbon footprint and money spent on travel.
Recent strikes in Paris and delays to renewal works at
Liverpool Street station, the key entry point to London had a
massive impact on the productivity of both cities. But
employees who were set up for remote working were able to
continue at home unaffected.
Reducing travel has further benefits. The survey found that
video conferencing and instant messaging have helped reduce
carbon footprints. It's good for the environment: 65% of
respondents to the study from across Europe indicated that
technology had helped them reduce their carbon footprint and
video conferencing usage has increased 17% in seven years, with
nations such as the UK and Germany embracing it the most.
Communication technology has delivered firmly in terms of
financial benefit, flexibility and personal productivity.. But
to realise the maximum potential of such innovative business
tools, speed and reliability is of the essence.
Business leaders need to have faith in the tools at their
disposal and this is why more and more organisations demand
pan-European IP coverage. GTB
Gareth Williams is CEO of Interoute
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