According to a report by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation, by next year a turning point will be reached whereby flexible working will become more common than working from an office. The report – Working anywhere: A winning formula for good work? – also predicts that flexible working will be the predominant way of working in up to 70% of organisations by 2020.
The report says that organisations wanting to benefit from the advantages of flexible working, such as enhanced productivity and improvements in staff wellbeing and retention, will need to design ways of working that encourage smart practices focussed on measured outputs rather than the length and visibility of hours worked.
Changes driven by technology and new ways of managing people
Director of the Work Foundation and author of the report, Dr Cathy Garner, says the evidence shows a clear trend towards more flexible ways of working in the UK, with the obstacles that once stood in its way overcome by technological innovation and new people management strategies.
Evaluating organisations such as BT, Stanford University and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, all of which have introduced flexible working, Dr Garner reports that the results have been improved productivity, reduced employee turnover and a happier workforce.
The research, which was conducted among 500 managerial level employees from a range of medium to large businesses, shows that more than 40% of the respondents believed that flexible working would allow them to get more work done and would reflect a deeper level of trust in them by the employer. 35% of the respondents said that it was essential to their work/life balance and reduced commuting time.
Removing the barriers to successful flexible working practises
Working longer hours and challenges to effective teamwork were just a couple of the concerns held by managers when it comes to flexible working. More than three-quarters of the respondents felt that it would require organisational change, especially in the areas of performance management and employee terms and conditions. Some managers felt that their ability to supervise work would be compromised and that human resource departments would be pressured.
To overcome the barriers to changes in working practices, the report suggests a top-down approach where CEO and board members lead by example, incorporating mobile working and prioritising their wellbeing.
According to Jacqueline de Rojas, area vice-president Northern Europe at Citrix (the company that commissioned the report), the right technology and the inspirational leaders who promote flexibility and reward innovation will be key to the UK’s development into a digital leader. She believes that the change towards more flexible working will be positive for both employees and business performance.
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