By Saijai Boonyachotima, Marketing and Operation Director, Microsoft Thailand Limited
Over the past decade, globalization, shifting demographics and technological advancements have changed the way we work.
Economies have shifted from labour-based to knowledge-based or even service-based. Coupled with the proliferation of technology, modern workers are now able to collaborate wherever they may be. These changes have impacted the way we shape our work spaces, as well as the skills we need for executives, managers and businesses to be successful. At Microsoft, we describe this new era of work as the New World of Work.
However, many Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) in Asia and in Thailand are not keeping up; with employees feeling that their needs are not being met. A recent Microsoft online survey of 2,600 SMB employees across 13 countries in Asia showed that only 42 out of every 100 employees in Thailand felt their employers are enabling them to be productive, collaborative and innovative, whilst ensuring personal wellbeing.
Conversely, in an online poll conducted with 702 SMB owners in six markets in Asia, 73 out of every 100 respondents felt that they were empowered for the New World of Work. This shows the gulf between how employees and employers perceive they are being equipped today.
SMBs in Thailand are the backbone of economy, providing 39.6% GDP and contributing 75% of total employment in the country. These numbers show there is a huge opportunity for Thai economy to grow by encouraging SMBs to empower employees and maximize productivity.
Since SMBs often find themselves operating with fewer resources than their larger counterparts, it is doubly important for SMB leaders to help their employees maximise their productivity. Unlocking the New World of Work is one way for businesses to maintain their competitive edge and accelerate growth. To do this, they need to consider three key principles of the New World of Work: People, Place and Technology.
People: Building a workplace culture that supports and values flexible working is a must.
According to the study, only 28% of Thai SMB respondents enjoyed workplace policies that supported remote working even though 59% of respondents highlighted that this ability would most benefit their organization.
Instead of managing presence, managers must learn to manage performance and build employee capabilities to collaborate with others from any location.
Place: Offices should support a collaborative, dynamic workplace design, supported by policies that enable flexible work no matter where it may take place.
Many employees don’t need to be in a fixed workspace and can work anywhere they find themselves most productive. In fact, 80% of Thai employees are already spending more than 20% of their time working outside offices.
Microsoft and other companies have already created offices with open collaboration spaces leading to improved productivity amongst employees while also lending greater flexibility and ownership to one’s work.
Technology: The changes in People and Place must be supported by technology that helps employees collaborate and connect with colleagues and customers in a fuss free manner.
Tellingly, 44% of the study respondents did not have access to tools in their workplace to facilitate this.
Microsoft’s Office 365 is one example of an enterprise-grade tool that can enable remote working and enhance productivity.
Completely revamping the way your organisation functions can be a daunting task for most SMBs with limited resources. Dr. James Eyring, COO of global growth consultancy firm, Organisation Solutions, had this advice for SMBs: “The best way to ease into the New World of Work is to start small, make key changes and then build out new policies and adopt new technologies in incremental steps.”
He elaborated, “Start by reviewing internal policies and processes and identifying gaps that are impeding ability to adapt to new work requirements. Admittedly, not all employees can work from any place at any time. However, many can. Focus on employee groups that already have flexibility in their work and make sure you empower them with the capability and technology needed to work more flexibly and productively. Lastly, challenge your thinking on other employee groups and expand your efforts to maximize flexibility and collaboration in the workplace.”
SMBs in Thailand should not view the New World of Work as an obstacle, but rather as an opportunity. After all, the SMBs who are open to change will gain the most.
The Microsoft Asia New World of Work SMB Study was conducted in September 2015 with 2,600 respondents working in small and medium businesses with less than 250 employees in 13 Asia markets including Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, China, India, Korea and Vietnam.
Microsoft worked with Organisation Solutions, a global consultancy helping companies solve the people and organization challenges of growth, to design the study and gain insights from the data.
 Online poll conducted between November – December 2015 in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam