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Flexible working one year on: Have there been any changes?

Exactly one year ago today, legislation was passed which stated that all employees had the right to request flexible working.

The idea was great in practice, but how far have companies actually come in terms of adoption? Findings from Microsoft show that 22 per cent of SMB workers have requested flexible working as a direct result of the law.

However, 55 per cent of British office workers are still required to work from the office within designated working hours and 44 per cent said it is not possible to work remotely under any circumstances.

These figures are surprising considering the ample positive aspects of flexible working, as over a third (35 per cent) of workers said it makes them more motivated and 36 per cent said it makes them more productive.

In recognition of the anniversary, several industry leaders have offered their opinions on the legislation.

Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft UK:

"Business leaders should reimagine how workers operate. According to the Office of National Statistics, productivity levels in the UK are stagnant and lower than the start of the recession in 2007. There’s never been a better time to change since there’s a risk that firms are cultivating an environment that traps staff in process and red-tape instead of giving them the opportunity to think and have the necessary head-space to be creative

"Only 11 per cent of employees feel like they have good ideas in the office, and many spend the day doing administrative orientated tasks like trying to achieve ‘inbox-zero’.

"Instead of automatically assuming that work can only happen in the office, employers should focus on the work at hand, where it makes the most sense to complete it and then give employees the freedom and tools to empower them to be productive anytime, anywhere."

Matthew Singer, VP Marketing, Jobvite:

"Although flexible working has been in law for a year, companies still struggle to understand its value to employees. In Jobvite's 2015 Jobseeker Survey, it was revealed that 38 per cent and 25 per cent of people respectively stated that work/life balance and flexibility to work from home impacts their decision to take a new job. On top of this, research undertaken by Censuswide and Unify found that 37 per cent of companies still do not offer flexible working, despite 39 per cent of respondents claiming they would be more loyal to an organisation that did.

"Alongside this, the UK is experiencing a talent shortage. Unemployment in the country is down, but there is a skills gap, with the most talented workers in high demand. This means that organisations must look to different avenues in order to differentiate themselves.

"Flexible working holds the key for many workers. Ensuring your company offers this means employees feel in control of their own lives, improving both attraction and retention rates. If this is ignored though, your business runs the risk of losing out on the greatest candidates and chances for growth. It might seem like a simple thing, but flexible working can make all the difference."

Trevor Connell,Managing Director West EMEA, Russia and APAC at Unify:

"It has been a year since the right to request flexible working came into law, but there are a number of questions regarding how effective this has actually been. Research conducted by Censuswide, on behalf of Unify, revealed that more than a third of Britons (37 per cent) state that their companies still do not offer flexible working. This is despite 39 per cent of people saying they would be more loyal to a business and 24 per cent being more likely to recommend the company if they offered flexible working.

"On top of this, research from late last year's New Ways to Work Index revealed that nearly half of employees would choose flexible working over a pay raise and a third stated they would change employer if the working practice was offered elsewhere.

"With all this in mind, one thing is clear: people desire flexible working. With the improving condition of the job market, it is becoming harder and harder to attract and retain the top talent. The best way to achieve this and differentiate your business from others is to offer flexible working to employees.

"There is an abundance of technology that allows individuals to work anytime and anywhere seamlessly, meaning adopting flexible working is far less daunting than previously. Employees standards and demands are changing and, unless your company keeps up to date, it will find the best candidates look elsewhere for work."