Can flexible working help growing businesses attract the best of the best?
The importance of flexible working in terms of helping companies attract and retain employees is growing.
A recent survey from Direct365 showed that flexible working was the top benefit that UK employees wanted in their benefits package; with more than one in three (35 per cent) saying they would like the option to work flexibly. In a job market, where there is near full employment, offering good flexible policies can help companies of all sizes compete for talent.
According to a new report, Britain is on the verge of a flexible working ‘tipping point,’ as more people are shunning the traditional 9-5pm in the office for remote working, according to a new report by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation and commissioned by Citrix.
The report entitled, ‘Working anywhere: A winning formula for good work? suggests that by 2017 over half of organisations in the UK will adopt flexible working and that by 2020 over 70 per cent will have followed suit.
The report argues that flexible working can result in increased productivity, improved employee wellbeing, talent attraction and retention, the report argues.
This view is supported by a YouGov poll commissioned by Redcentric last year which highlighted that 54 per cent of UK office workers are able to work remotely and that 30 per cent believe their productivity increases when they work away from the office.
Recently, it was also suggested that flexible and part time working could be the answer to severe teacher shortages in a report published by Policy Exchange in conjunction with the Association of School and College Leaders.
Policy Exchange’s head of education, Jonathan Simons said, “Our education system needs to embrace a new way of working, if it doesn’t schools are going to continue to struggle to attract and retain the best talent. The answer both to attracting mothers back into classrooms and to the issue of burnout for teachers could be flexible working.”
However, many business owners and managers are reluctant to embrace flexible working. A UK wide survey by Mothers Mean Business (MBM) showed that only 23 per cent of respondents believe that their employers understand and embrace part-time and flexible working.
So what are the barriers? The Work Foundation believes that more than a third (37 per cent) of managers believe implementing mobile working will result in them working longer hours, one in five (22 per cent) say it makes them feel disconnected from their team and 28 per cent felt it could block them from overseeing the work of others. The Foundation also suggests that a ‘cultural barrier’ that needs to be overcome, as some employers fail to see the positives.
Trust can also be a big issue for employers – particularly those who may not have ever worked in a flexible environment. Requests can often get turned down because managers have questions about visibility and they also don’t want to take on the administration around flexible working either.
Whilst these concerns are valid, if flexible working policies are supported by the right systems and procedures it can work very effectively.
Technology is a major enabler. With smart devices enabling mobile email, Skype making remote meetings simple to run and with most people having laptops and good Wifi access at home these days, in reality, they are always connected to the office.
Other technologies that can help companies include absence management systems that allow flexible working to be tracked and managed easily. Such systems offer visibility at a glance of all employees whether they are working remotely, on holiday or off sick.
As more organisations offer flexible working it will increasingly become a perk that is expected. For growing businesses having good policies around flexible working can be a great way to differentiate and attract and retain talent in a competitive employment market and it could result in a productivity boost at the same time.
Adrian Lewis is a commercial director at Activ Absence.