Britain's smaller businesses are not clear on the meaning of flexible working, according to a new poll from the Orange SMS Business Jury.
Just over half of businesses surveyed (53%) believe flexible working means taking time off for working extra hours; nearly a third think it means working from home (26%); just over one in ten think it means working remotely (12%) and only 7% think it means working part time.
Commenting on the results, Martin Lyne, director of small and medium enterprise, Orange Business Services said:
"The results of this poll show that the owners and managers of British businesses have many different interpretations of what flexible working actually means. This confusion could be counter intuitive to both employers and employees. If flexible working is properly understood and introduced to organisations, it can have a positive impact for employers and employees alike."
The majority of respondents (54%) believe that an office is the most productive working environment, more than double the number that chose home working (24%), whilst only a handful thought working from a café would be productive (3%).
The onset of spring sunshine may have influenced the fifth of respondents (17%) who believe working outside to be the most productive environment.
By far the most commonly associated benefit for businesses adopting flexible working is a decrease in stress (40%) followed by an increase in staff loyalty (23%).
Just less than a fifth (19%) believe that flexible working boosts productivity/revenues. Only a small number think that flexible working reduces carbon footprint (3%).
The results of the poll show that the biggest challenge for businesses is lack of trust with staff (35%), who may worry about the perception of flexible working as out of sight out of mind.
Less than a fifth (18%) see flexible working as adding to stress levels for managers, yet only 6% feel there is a negative impact on productivity/revenues.
Improving the work-life balance and having the right technology (e.g. remote email access) were the most important considerations for businesses introducing flexible working (29% each). Trust in staff came in as the second most important consideration (22%).