Working smart

Offering employees flexible working options can boost productivity and more.

Offering employees flexible working options can boost productivity and more.

More than any other business, call centres are associated with large offices of people tied to their desks and perhaps not enjoying the greatest job satisfaction. Nottingham-based call-answering service business Answer-4u has defied that stereotype by implementing a homeworking policy for its 130 employees over the past few years, according to founder Glenn Harrison.

He explains, ‘We provide them with a telephone, monitor, keyboard and router. This enables them to access our systems and answer calls for clients in exactly the same way as they would if they were in the office.’ He adds that it’s been a ‘worthwhile investment’, making Answer-4u more attractive as an employer and better able to handle crises such as heavy snowfalls – since staff can simply carry on as normal from home.

No fixed abode

Another advocate for flexible working is electronics company Plantronics, which has implemented a policy that combines homeworking and hot-desking. Hot-desking involves employees sharing work stations according to the needs of the day, rather than having permanent desks of their own.

Plantronics originally operated across three buildings but now works from one thanks to the new policy. ‘There are roughly seven desks for every ten employees,’ says Paul Clark, Plantronics’ director for the UK and Ireland. ‘There are different types of space, all recognising different types of work – concentration spaces with desks designed in certain ways and communication spaces offering vibrant environments for stimulating communication.’ The firm has also equipped all staff with the gadgets that they need to work from home.

Clark says that employees’ appreciation of being allowed to work more flexibly brings a productivity payoff. ‘You stop forcing workers to get in a car or travel on a bus or train every day, so you are giving that time back to them,’ he notes. ‘In return, they give that back to the company.’

For both Answer-4u and Plantronics, the benefits of implementing flexible working policies have far outweighed the costs. ‘The investment can be as big or as measured as you wish,’ Clark remarks, while Harrison chimes in that ‘it is relatively easy to set someone up from home’. While Clark mentions that the company has saved money on office space since moving from three sites to one, it’s the savings on training and recruitment that Harrison highlights, due to improved staff satisfaction and retention.

Aoife Hayes

Aoife Hayes was a staff journalist for Business XL, sister title to GrowthBusiness, from 2011 to 2012, before moving on to work for the BBC as a Broadcast journalist. She graduated from the University...

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