Digital Skills, Flexible Working, And Work-Life Balance


It goes without saying that both businesses and employees are finding themselves increasingly shifting to online platforms and channels to promote their services and skills, with the UK digital economy predicted to grow to 33% of GDP by 2020. Yet, the World Economic Forum predicts that 54% of all employees will require reskilling by 2022, with “as many as 756,000 unfilled jobs in the European ICT sector by 2020”. There is also the threat of automation that low-skilled workers face globally. Whilst there exists a range of online programs to improve employee skills, there are few programs that expertly target areas of digital marketing. In fact, 69% of UK digital marketers feel that they will need to ‘improve their digital marketing skills to remain competent in their roles in the future’. The role that digital skills will play, in both business and employee development in the future, is monumental.

Optix Digital Academy is a soon-to-launch marketing program that will change how businesses, large and small, operate digitally, within the South-West. Through upskilling existing employees, the Optix Digital Academy aims to give your business a digital advantage in the online marketing arena, through a combination of online resources and in-person modules, delivered by our resident subject-experts. Stretching from Search Engine Optimisation to Social Media, and everything in-between, the Optix Academy offers an opportunity to expand the existing skill sets of the South-West’s businesses’ employees. Given the in-person nature of the program, the Optix Digital Academy facilitates a collaborative learning experience between those undertaking the course, allowing participants to bounce marketing campaign ideas off each other, allowing a greater return of investment for those businesses who take part. Given that the current digital skills gap is predicted to cost the UK £141 billion of GDP growth in the next decade, there is no better time to adopt an encouraging approach to sustained employee upskilling than the present.


With improving technology comes the improving employee capability and flexibility within the working world, best harnessed by those with the digital skills to utilise new, emerging platforms. Such changes have helped lead to the explosion of businesses modeled on the ‘gig economy’. Flexible working embodies the increasing demand by employees for dynamic work environments, to better accommodate personal and family lives. Whether changing working hours, working from home, or opting for a four day week, flexible working ensures that employees can effectively maximise their work-life balance, ensuring more motivated, better performing staff. The marketing industry is one of the clear leaders in facilitating such working patterns, with 24.5% of workers exercising the ability to work remotely. There is clear benefit to adopting such an approach – companies that have a remote working policy have a 25% lower employee turnover than those that don’t.


Many UK-based businesses have considered changing to more flexible working arrangements, yet few have taken the leap forward. After a considerable investigational period, the Wellcome Trust opted not to trial a four day work week, citing issues of fairness for certain departments as well as being “too operationally complex to implement”. Such concerns were primarily surrounding rigid support-function teams, which would have struggled to operate effectively within the parameters of four working days. Yet, given the delocalised nature of the online marketing environment, those working digitally within the field could find it significantly easier to adapt to a more flexible employment contract. Some UK based marketing firms have already made the jump to the four-day week, reporting improvements in productivity of up to 29.5%. Effectively, increasing flexible working environments will likely yield better productivity for adapting businesses. Upskilling employees’ digital abilities could be key to enabling the ‘de-officing’ of the British economy, addressing the future risks of automation and urgent shortages of digitally skilled workers, whilst satisfying the rising demand of the British public for more flexible work.


The evidence is compelling and the results are clear – flexible working can improve business efficiency, drive a healthier work-life balance, and target environmental sustainability. Given the possibility for remote work within digital marketing, the benefits of adopting such changes seem more compelling than ever. In the face of increasing automation and the rise of artificial intelligence, even the World Economic Forum advocates upskilling employees for the purpose of continuous development, in addition to wider economic growth. Allowing flexible working can also cutdown on business costs, reduce time wasted on commuting, and save unnecessary travel costs, as well as the associated impacts on the environment. Since the Trade Union Congress was founded, increased productivity has seen average weekly hours worked fall from 61 to 32. With the increasing shift towards digital work coinciding with rising employee output, there is little reason to be boxed in by traditional working standards. With better rested and motivated staff; less really is more.


Anywhere – literally. The ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle is becoming increasingly possible and popular, with compact computing and reliable, widespread internet connection vastly enabling the idea of the ‘digital workplace’. There are examples of individuals within the marketing field flocking to exotic locations such as Thailand, in order to live in tropical resorts of freelancing productivity. Whilst some overly optimistic sources are predicting up to a billion digital nomad workers by 2035, it is likely true that continuously improving communications infrastructure will lead to increasingly delocalised work environments. In fact, improving both the work/life balance and offering better holiday allowances have proven to be the most attractive, in demand perks that employers can offer according to The Independent. This is before even considering the increasing demand for ‘unpaid sabbaticals’ of today’s workforce. Our in-house Digital Marketing Team Leader, Simon Key, enjoyed such a hiatus, during which he travelled across South-East Asia for six weeks. The evolution of the digital economy is driving the flexibility and capabilities of anyone with digital skills; it’s not just parents or caregivers who could benefit from investment in digital skillset development or flexible working – it’s everyone.


People are increasingly able to produce more work in less time, with a growing amount of output being created digitally. With this in mind, it appears evident that upskilling workers with digital skills whilst offering flexible working patterns will not only improve productivity and business output, but can also lead to improvements in employee job satisfaction, retention, and work-life balance. Critically, it also widens the potential hiring pool available to your business, tapping into the unrecognised talent that is available within groups of people with limiting personal circumstances. Accommodating existing employees who may undergo disruptive changes in their personal circumstances will also undoubtedly ensure better employee retention in future, especially with the rising popularity of shared parental responsibilities. Through a combination of upskilling workers digitally and embracing a flexible workplace approach, your business could gain a competitive advantage to build towards a sustainable future. If you’re ready for the next big leap forward, click here to check out the exciting ways that you can build towards your digital future as a business or an employee through the Optix Digital Academy.

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