Businesses need to focus on employee output, not the amount of hours spent in the office, says Monica Yianakis, head of ventures at brewing company Lion.

The gig economy is here and thriving and employers need to embrace it, as it won't be going away any time soon: that's the message from today's PwC Herald Talks event held at the Victory Convention Centre in Auckland.

Twenty years ago there were no smartphones, no Google Maps, no Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Uber or Spotify - and Amazon was only selling books. The world has changed immensely in those 20 years, and it will do the same in coming decades.

Yianakis said the pace of change driven by technology would only continue to increase, and business need to evolve accordingly to stay relevant.

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Computer processing speeds, on average, double every two years, and in the past two years the world has created more data than previously existed in the entire span of human history.

Lion, one of the country's oldest companies, is embracing this change through its ventures team, which has the job of creating new revenue streams separate from its alcohol and soft drinks business, Yianakis said.

The company had also recognised the benefits from shifting away from the traditional Monday to Friday work week and the typical 9-to-5 model, and the impact technology has on that.

As technology and individuals' values continue to shape the way we work, the future success of businesses will rely on their ability to adapt to new ways of working.

Yianakis said employees were at their happiest and productive when they had a good work-life balance.

She said research showed that employees who worked flexible hours and from different locations other than the office were more engaged, more productive and less stressed.

"There is significant commercial upside for businesses that embrace flexibility," Yianakis said. "We need to stop thinking about work as a place we go to, to actually something we do. Work needs to stop being about inputs - sitting at your desk Monday to Friday - to actually being your outputs and what you're producing regardless about where you are or what time of day it is when you're producing it."

During the panel discussion, Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said education would need radical change in the next 10 years to reflect the needs of business.

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PwC Herald Talks panelists Monica Yianakis, Amy Prebble, Chris Hipkins and Elizabeth George discuss the gig economy with Fran O'Sullivan. Photo / Supplied
PwC Herald Talks panelists Monica Yianakis, Amy Prebble, Chris Hipkins and Elizabeth George discuss the gig economy with Fran O'Sullivan. Photo / Supplied

"When you think about what we are equipping young people with, the types of skills and dispositions are far more important than the subject-specific knowledge; how are we equipping young people to be resilient, adaptable, have good communication skills, have the ability to unlearn something if necessary and do all of that spontaneously and regularly," Hipkins said.

Accountancy company MYOB has implemented flexibility in its workforce and is creating a flexible work culture for all its staff. MYOB head of employee service, Felicity Brown, said flexibility in the workplace should not only be about part-time work for parents.

As part of its flexibility policy, it has implemented an additional five days of paid leave for its staff to use for any purpose.

There is significant commercial upside for businesses that embrace flexibility.

The problem with flexible working was many managers still only considered an employee to be working when they were sitting in the office, in front of them. This mindset needs to change, Brown said.

"You have to help the manager develop their mindset - and that's been a real focus for us in terms of our shift from just a flex policy to actually how do we truly make this part of the culture."

Brown and Yianakis agreed that managers needed to start with trust, as offering flexibility allowed businesses to attract and retain the best talent.

"We don't hire people we don't trust, so why do people need to earn trust before they are allowed to start working flexibly?" Brown asked.

Getaflex chief executive Amy Prebble said senior leadership teams and managers needed to be onboard and "role model" successful flexible working.