Eight myths about flexible working

Flexible working is a growing trend, but it still encounters some resistance from traditionalists. Here's why they're wrong.

1. ‘It’s only for big companies’

Not anymore. Flexible working is about using technologies to help get the best from your people and this is just as important for the smaller business. A recent survey by YouGov for BT Business found that 59 per cent of small business directors felt that their organisations were just as able as larger companies to implement new ways of working. And in a recent BCC survey it was found that 62.3 per cent of small businesses offered flexible working patterns, 70 per cent noted an improvement in employee relations and over 50 per cent noted an improvement in productivity.

2. ‘If the internet goes down, so does my business’

It doesn’t need to be like that as employees haven’t got to rely on a single connection. In the (increasingly unlikely given the excellent reliability of the better business broadband packages available) event of any minor connectivity disruption, there’s always a mobile phone, a laptop or a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) that can make a connection to keep you in touch. If you choose the right technology provider you will also receive dedicated business support.

3. ‘It’s too expensive to set up’

It needn’t be. You can start with a relatively small investment in the things that will make the most immediate impact and add more services as you choose. Bringing all your communications together over a converged network can reduce the overall cost of your communications and drive your business productivity. Workers will waste less time travelling to and from work, and can be more productive in their day-to-day jobs; through flexible working, staff enjoy gaining more control over how and when they work. The business benefits for employers can include higher staff morale and lower employee churn.

4. ‘If staff can access our files from outside, so can hackers’

Basic security measures such as firewalls and anti-virus software can deny hackers access to your data and systems whether you are working in the workplace, at home or on the road. Using a Virtual Private Network extends the security protection of your office network to any location, allowing access only to authorised staff.

5. ‘If I can’t see my staff, they’ll do less work’

A lot of entrepreneurs worry about this but the key to solving this problem is to have in place key performance indicators which enable you to measure productivity objectively. Time spent in the office isn’t necessarily all productive so don’t be tempted to judge based on this alone. A target met at home is better than one missed at work. Also, allowing staff greater flexibility over managing their time and granting them easy access to instant communications helps them respond more quickly.

6. ‘If I’m not in the office, people won’t think I’m working’

If an individual’s contribution is measurable then this shouldn’t be a problem. Collaborative tools and  ‘always-on’ technology not only enable staff to work as effectively on the road as in the office, but can also actually make it easier for organisations to monitor their business effectiveness.

7. ‘Home workers will feel isolated’

It’s a possibility, depending on the personality of the individual, but regular online meetings and other day-to-day working links can effectively deal with this. A ‘touchdown’ space gives remote workers a ‘home’ in the office and reminds everyone that the team includes people who aren’t always there face-to-face.

8. ‘Flexible working is really just for parents with young children who need to combine work with family responsibilities – it’s not relevant to everyone’

The demand for flexible working from men and women and from customers is increasing rapidly. Individuals increasingly want more say in when and where they work and customers are expecting services and products to be available at times when they want them. More and more people are demanding control over the way they work and a life outside of the office. People are also realising that jobs don’t always have to come at the expense of time with their family, learning a new skill outside of work or being packed like sardines onto a rush hour train.

Related: Is flexible working better for the bottom line?

Nick Britton

Nick Britton

Nick was the Managing Editor for growthbusiness.co.uk when it was owned by Vitesse Media, before moving on to become Head of Investment Group and Editor at What Investment and thence to Head of Intermediary...

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