February 18, 2016

Flexible Working: Friend or Foe?

Most employers have cottoned on to the fact that flexible working benefits them just as much as it benefits employees. As a result, over a third (75%) of the 8,000 global employers and employees involved in a recent Vodafone survey, now take advantage of some kind of flexible working policies, such as different working hours or the ability to work from home or on the move.

Called ‘Flexible: friend or foe?, the workplace survey, one of the largest global surveys of its kind, revealed that those employers offering flexible working are reaping the benefits. It found that 83% of the respondents reported an improvement in productivity as a result of flexible working patterns, 81% reported increased company profits and 58% believed that their flexible working policies had positively impacted on their organisation’s reputation.

SMEs in particular, reported enjoying strong business benefits as a result of flexible working arrangements.

The survey showed that a combination of high speed mobile data services , fixed-line broadband and cloud services have enabled this workplace transformation to happen and to take root very quickly. Employees can easily use their organisation’s or their own devices, at work, at home and on the move.

Many employers (61%) said employees use their home broadband to access work applications. Almost a quarter (24%) said employees use a mobile data connection via their smartphone, tablet or laptop with a broadband dongle.

Perhaps not surprisingly, younger generations are particularly in favour of flexible working, with 72% of 18-24 year old saying flexible working would improve the quality of their work. That proportion dropped to 38% among respondents over 55.

However, there is still substantial resistance to flexible working in some quarters. Vodafone’s research found that 20% of respondents worked for organisations that had not implemented a flexible working policy. Almost a quarter (22%) believed that employees would not work as hard if they were allowed to adopt flexible working patterns and technologies. Others cited concerns that work would not be fairly distributed between those on flexible working arrangements and those on regular work arrangements. They also expressed concerns that there would be friction between those working flexibly and those who weren’t.

Recent research by the facilities and building maintenance company, Direct365, supports this view that flexible working arrangements are not uniformly popular in the workplace. It found that 31% of UK workers think that flexible working reduces team spirit and that the traditional office culture was in danger of being lost.

However, UK bosses are largely in favour of flexible working. The Vodafone survey found that UK employers are the least likely to think that flexible workers work less hard – only 8% cited it as a concern, compared to 33% of the Hong Kong employers polled.

Of those employers who had not yet implemented flexible working policies, many were of the opinion that they would enjoy substantial benefits should they have a change of heart. Over half (55%) said employee morale would improve, 44% said they thought it would boost productivity and 30% believed profits would rise.