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Flexible Working – why aren’t more companies adopting?

18 · JUL ·2013

A recent report commissioned by Sir Win Bischoff, chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, has led twenty two business leaders of some of Britain’s biggest companies to put their signatures to a movement aiming to revolutionise traditional working practices. The group, named The Agile Future Forum includes the likes of Ian Livingston, chief executive of BT, Martyn Phillips, chief executive of B&Q and Adam Crozier, boss of ITV. In a joint letter to the Daily Telegraph Times last month, AFF urged UK businesses to realise the benefits of flexible working not just for employees but for employers as well. The report, available here makes a compelling case for fuller adoption of flexible working by demonstrating, amongst other things, that such practices can cut workforce costs by as much as 13%.

Whether the report will give rise to a spur in flexible working remains to be seen, previous efforts to ‘revolutionise’ working practices in recent times have fallen somewhat short of their goals and aspirations. The government backed initiative WorkwiseUK , announced in 2008 that they were aiming to have “ 50% of the UK population working mainly in their own home, or in different places using home as a base within 5 years”. As it stands approximately 15% of the UK working population would fall into this categorisation. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been progress; with statistics suggesting a 13% in flexible working practices during this period.

A recent poll by YouGov has also indicated that the UK is leading the rest of the world in the adoption of BYOD (Bring your own device). Of course using your own device at work and working from home are not identical practices, but the popularity of the trend should act as a means of loosening the rigid 9-5 ties of the working week. According to the report two-thirds of managers said allowing employees to use their own devices made them more efficient” which can only strengthen the argument that agility in the work place can bolster rather than hamper productivity. Furthermore, in order to make BYOD possible, companies have implemented technology, security protocols and internal policies which could, if so desired, support a fuller adoption of remote working practices.

The arrival of 4G in the UK, which offers upto four times faster download speeds and ten times faster upload speeds than previous mobile networks, also promises to usher in an era of ‘true’ flexible working; by allowing employees to work on the move.

While flexible working doesn't suit all jobs or sectors, there are many organisations that could reap the benefits of it. The traditional barriers that have prevented companies from adopting these practices are slowly coming down: as improvements in internet connectivity and the accessibility of remote working technologies allow for employees to work away from the office without reliability and or security issues.

Of course one of the biggest obstacles that remains is the attitude of employees and employers towards working from home; with many UK bosses holding concerns over employee productivity in an unsupervised environment. The Agile Future Forum report might just get those employers thinking a little differently.

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Posted by Sanita Karra