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How flexible working is taking over, and improving, the modern office

Change in government legislation, combined with advancements in office technology, has meant flexible working has become a common occurrence in some offices. As we continue to develop as a world there will have to be changes in the way we work and commute.

There will come a time when, in bustling commuter areas such as London and New York, there are too many people to get around. In order to combat this problem there are new ways of working which will allow flexibility. Flexible working – which includes remote working, condensed hours, telecommuting and flexitime –allows employees to achieve a greater work-life balance.

These changes should have no negative effect on their productivity, yet some employers are still reluctant to allow their employees to work outside the traditional 9-to-5 structure.

How important is flexible working to employees?

A global survey conducted by Vodafone in early 2016 (opens in new tab) revealed that 75 per cent of companies across 10 different countries have a flexible working policy in place. Of the employees who can work flexibly, 83 per cent reported an improvement in their workplace’s productivity as a direct result.

A significant 58 per cent of employees felt their organisation’s reputation had improved thanks to the policy, suggesting they see their employers in a much more favourable light. 55 per cent of employees who aren’t allowed to work flexibly state that they feel morale would improve with the practice in place.

So it’s fair to say that, to employees, flexible working has become an important perk. One that could lead to happier staff – and, perhaps, better staff retention.

Is not offering flexible working a disadvantage to a modern business

Concerns such as a reduction in work quality, a lack of trust between employers and their staff, and worries about tensions between flexible and non-flexible staff are just a handful of the reasons why some organisations are resistant to flexible working.

However, Jason Downes, Managing Director of conference call and web conferencing company Powwownow, feels that the positive aspects of flexible working far outweigh any drawbacks: “Remote working technology, including conference calling software, smart devices and cloud-based management systems, lets employees experience the structure and connectivity of the office environment, without actually requiring all employees to be within the same four walls of the office.

“Offices – particularly open-plan offices – are full of distractions. Giving your employees the opportunity to get their work done in a distraction-free environment where they feel comfortable and relaxed isn’t just an easy perk, it’s a move that will improve performance and benefit the business.”

Is flexible working a ‘should’ or a ‘must’ in the modern workplace?

Any UK-based business with either full-time or part-time employees would be wise to implement a flexible working policy. Every non-agency employee who has worked for their company for more than 26 weeks is legally entitled to request flexible working changes to their contract, which can lead to difficult management decisions should the request come through when there isn’t a policy in place.

Jason Downes explains that flexible working can help a business to grow. “Employees clearly feel that flexible working increases morale,” he says. “Working for a boss who shows that they appreciate the fact that employees have a life outside of work is certain to boost positivity and increase employee retention.”

How easy is it to bring flexible working into your business?

Implementing a flexible working policy shouldn’t be difficult. The major investments should be within remote working, by providing staff with laptops enabled with software for conference calling and instant messaging to recreate the connectivity of the office environment. Smart phones are also a strong addition to the workforce’s equipment, though it’s reasonable to assume most employees will also have their own devices.

By making these initial investments, companies can save money in the long run on office fees and costs and are more likely to retain staff because of their study-proven popularity of the practice, which in-turn reduces the cost of hiring new employees.

Flexible working has arrived, and it appears to be here to stay. According to Downes, employers would be wise to clue up on the topic, and develop a policy that works for them. Perhaps before employees start looking elsewhere.

Jason Downes, Managing Director of Powwownow (opens in new tab)

Image source: Shutterstock/Undrey