A decade ago it was more challenging to persuade businesses about the benefits of ‘flexible’ working and there was little research around. Ten years on, there is a much better understanding of the value to businesses and employees and its role in workplace wellbeing. More and more employees are aspiring for a better work-life balance and as businesses have adapted and improved, there has been a noticeable change.

The assumption that flexible work practices are only for working mums has been replaced. Indeed, the government has previously said it wants to remove the ‘cultural assumption’ that flexible working only applies to parents or carers, and that it wants to make workplaces ‘fit for the 21st Century’. The potential knock-on positive effects being the chance to reduce unemployment and that better work-life integration improves employees’ health.

Flexible modes of working are not just popular with parents, but the millennial and ‘baby boomer’ generations, who are rejecting the typical 35 hours for more manageable working hours and work-life balance. Flexible working is higher up the list of what people are asking for now and according to Lancaster University’s Work Foundation, which produced the report http://www.theworkfoundation.com/wf-reports/?398/Working-Anywhere it’s predicted that flexible working will be the main way of working for 70% of organisations by 2020.

What difference does flexible-friendly working make?

The 2016 Vodafone global survey, http://www.vodafone.com/business/global-enterprise/flexible-friend-or-foe-a-guide-to-flexible-working-2016-02-08 – one of the largest global surveys of its kind – found that 75% of companies worldwide have now introduced flexible working policies. SMEs in particular, reported enjoying strong business benefits as a result of flexible working arrangements.

Increased profits, productive employees – there’s little doubt that flexible working pays for businesses that embrace it – 61% said company profits increased; 83% saw an improvement in productivity; and 58% believed that flexible working policies had a positive impact on their organisation’s reputation.

In 2013, joint by Vodafone and RSA concluded UK businesses could realise cost reductions and productivity gains of £8.1 billion by optimising their approach to flexible working.

Although progress has been made, there is still room for improvement to address attitudes towards flexible working. Vodafone’s research found that 20% of organisations had not implemented a flexible working policy and it is not uniformly popular in all businesses.

What does flexible-friendly working mean for employees?

According to the latest flexible working statistics:

  • 70% of workers feel that offering flexible working makes a job more attractive to them
  • 67% of employees wish they were offered flexible working
  • 58% of people believe that working away from the office would help them become more motivated
  • 53% of people feel that they would be more productive if they could work outside the office
  • 47% of full time employees do not have flexible working encouraged at their workplace
  • Women (34%) are more likely to ask for flexible working over a pay rise compared to men (26%)

How you can create a flexible-friendly workplace?

Listen to your employees – discuss their requirements so you fully understand their situation and what you may be able to provide when it comes to flexible working arrangements – this may include:

  • Part-time working
  • Flexi-time – scope to change work hours outside of ‘core’ business times
  • Job-sharing
  • Working from home or remotely
  • Compressed hours – for example, fitting a five-day week into four days
  • Term-time working – paid or unpaid leave during school holidays
  • Annual hours – agreed hours split into ‘set’ and ‘reserve’ shifts, worked as demand dictates

Flexible working remains a divisive issue, albeit the growing evidence suggests that it will become a mainstream organisational practice and the commute on crowded trains, buses and cars to work in an office all day is in transition.

For more details of how you can create a flexible-friendly workplace, please feel free to get in touch with me on 07880 207483 or email me on helen@byrnejoneshr.co.uk