Smart working

Our communications technology helps businesses boost productivity and cut costs and carbon emissions, enabling people to work flexibly, and can improve working lives and livelihoods by connecting workers and organisations

Smart working – Our approach

Vodafone’s communications technology helps businesses boost productivity and cut costs and carbon emissions, enabling people to work flexibly, and can improve working lives and livelihoods by connecting workers and organisations.

Our products and services give people the freedom to access information and systems, connect with colleagues around the world and work effectively wherever they are – whether in the office, at home or working on the move.

By enabling people to work more flexibly and on the go, smart working technologies can help improve employees’ productivity in the field and balance their work and home life better. This brings organisations significant benefits through increased efficiency, productivity and cost savings. Mobile technology can also cut carbon emissions by reducing the need for office space and daily commuting, and benefits workers and organisations by supporting training and feedback mechanisms.

Smart working technologies are a key part of our core business in developed markets and we continued to promote their uptake in 2013/14 as well as quantifying and publishing the benefits. The Flex Factor (pdf, 1.86 MB) report we published in July 2013 with the think tank RSA, estimated that organisations in the UK alone could save up to £8.1 billion annually by improving their approach to flexible working.

In emerging markets, we see significant potential for communication technology solutions to bring shared value for both organisations and workers – delivering wide social and economic benefits. Our Connected Worker research, published in May 2013, detailed six mobile solutions that together could save organisations US$30.6 billion through improved productivity, while providing US$7.7 billion of financial benefits to workers by 2020, across 12 markets.

Read on to find out more about our smart working solutions, our Connected Worker research and our progress in 2013/14.

Promoting smart working solutions in developed markets

More and more organisations are seeing the benefits of flexible working. In a survey of over 17,000 senior business people in 80 countries, 60% regarded flexible working as more cost-efficient and environmentally sustainable, 41% said productivity increased and more than 30% pointed to improved staff motivation1. Over 77% of the 2,828 employees and senior managers we surveyed in the UK, as part of our Flex Factor report, were offered some form of flexible working2.

We continue to offer and strengthen our smart working solutions for enterprise customers, helping them find better ways of working to reduce costs and improve their use of space, time and resources.

In 2013/14, for example, we continued to work with the UK Government Department for Transport (DfT) to build on their flexible working arrangements and help improve employee productivity. We helped the Department launch a ‘Model Office’ pilot to enforce a clear desk policy, create work space that better supports collaboration and introduce managed printing solutions. If it is rolled out across the Department, Model Office could save DfT up to 30% in space and an estimated £4 million annually. See Vodafone Global Enterprise for more on our smart working solutions.

Smart working solutions are also supporting more effective management of field workers. This helps to improve productivity by enabling them to connect with colleagues, information and systems and work ‘on the go’. As well as linking field staff with their operations centre and each other, our cloud-based solution, Vodafone Locate, is helping to improve personal safety for those working alone by enabling organisations to keep track of employees by locating the SIM cards in their mobile phones. Our Location Privacy Design Principles ensure that privacy protection is built into every location-based product we offer (see Privacy and security).

Helping people work more efficiently ‘in the field’ can also offer significant benefits in public sector services such as the police (see feature below) and healthcare (see Health), by reducing administration time so staff can spend more time supporting communities.

In focus: Improving efficiency and time for the community for New Zealand Police

In partnership with the New Zealand Police, we provided mobile technologies to help officers cut 30 minutes of administration time per shift, equating to 520,000 hours of time saved a year. Using smartphones, 8,500 officers can access information on suspects, vehicles and locations while on duty. Almost 4,000 officers who need to undertake more complex data entry have been provided with a tablet and cost savings have been made by replacing desktop phones with smart phones for 2,700 corporate personnel. The time saved on administration allows officers to spend more time in their communities and less time behind a desk – productivity benefits are estimated to be worth around NZ$304 million compared with a cost of around NZ$163 million for providing this technology (over a 10 year period).

Showcasing better ways of working in our own operations

We are using our own operations to showcase these solutions as we continue to implement better ways of working within Vodafone. This is delivering cost and carbon savings for our business by reducing office space, as well as providing benefits for our employees (see case study below). By implementing better ways of working at our UK headquarters we achieved a 20% improvement in productivity, cost savings of £40.7 million and carbon reductions of 617 tonnes of CO2 over five years. Our mobile working policy in the Netherlands led to an estimated 25% cut in emissions from employee commuting.

Flexible working environments are well established in our offices in the UK and the Netherlands, and in 2013/14 we continued to promote better ways of working in Ireland and Germany. This involved rationalising our office space, introducing ‘hot-desking’ and using our technology to implement unified communications systems – integrating fixed and mobile communications – and enabled seamless working on different devices. Changing our culture is also an important part of promoting flexible working to gain the full benefits of these changes.

Working with the sustainability consultancy Environmental Resources Management (ERM), we developed a tool to measure the sustainability benefits of flexible working. The tool, targeted at our own operations, is available to all our local markets and allows them to assess and compare carbon emissions, costs, employee satisfaction and productivity – before and after implementing flexible working initiatives.

In focus: Employee views of flexible working in Germany

In 2013, we conducted a survey of more than 1,430 people in our business in Germany to understand the impact of introducing more flexible working practices, which allow employees to work outside the office for up to 50% of their time, or at over 4,000 workplaces on the campus. Almost 80% agreed that their managers were supporting their teams to be more mobile and flexible in their work. Nearly half of respondents are using the flexible working space on the campus and 87% felt that the new IT equipment helped them work more flexibly and efficiently.

Assessing the potential in emerging markets

Our Connected Worker report, published in May 2013, explored opportunities for mobile technology to deliver commercial benefits for organisations and improve working life and livelihoods for people in emerging markets.

We found that across 12 markets, the six opportunities identified could increase workers’ incomes by US$7.7 billion by 2020, while enabling a further US$30.6 billion in benefits to organisations through improved productivity. The six key opportunities are:

  • Job Finder: linking workers with jobs through a subscription-based service using a simple SMS-based platform including sign-up, worker profile creation and job notification
  • Field Force Enablement: improving productivity, safety and effectiveness of workers by enabling them to plan and execute a wide range of tasks while they are ‘in the field’. Find out how we are putting this technology into practice in Health
  • mIdentity: enhancing corporate security and providing additional credibility and authentication for workers when dealing with customers or other third parties
  • mLearning: delivering basic skills and job-related training via mobile and supporting skills building through quizzes and reminders
  • Worker Panel: allowing information about working conditions to be gathered directly from workers (anonymously) to enhance visibility across global supply chains. Find out how we plan to use this approach in our own supply chain in Responsible supply chain
  • mPayroll: using mobile technology to enable secure, cost-effective and reliable wage payments to unbanked workers through platforms such as Vodafone’s M-Pesa.

We identified these six key opportunities – from an initial list of over 90 – through a process of desk-based research, two workshops held in South Africa and India involving over 30 external stakeholders from private, public and not-for-profit sectors, and in-depth interviews with over 40 stakeholders. Each of the six opportunities were then modelled across 12 emerging markets where Vodafone has a presence – the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Fiji, Ghana, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Qatar, South Africa, Tanzania and Turkey.

For more information, see the Connected Worker report (pdf, 2.52 MB).


  1. Regus, Flexible Working Goes Global Report, 2011
  2. Representative survey conducted as part of our research with RSA for The Flex Factor report.