As the demands for a 24/7 consumer culture grows, organisations are increasingly recognising the benefits of working flexibly for both their staff and their profits. Technology has been a huge driver to changing the nature of the typical workplace from one where staff arrive at nine in the morning and leave at five, to organisations that accept a range of working arrangement giving employees flexibility on how long, where and when they work. Dave Coplin, the chief envisioning office at Microsoft, argues that firms should think of work as an activity, not a specific location.
Nine to five is no longer the default position of business. It is becoming increasingly acceptable and beneficial for firms to implement more complex working patterns. Flexible working has become the norm for the majority of employees in one form or another. Flexible working includes a range of working practices, such as:
- Offsite working (e.g. working from home)
- Flexible hours
- Job sharing
- Part-time working
Research from around the world shows that the performance of employees working flexibly either improves or stays the same, when assessed by their managers. A 2012 study by Stanford University reported a marked rise in the productivity of staff working offsite, with a 13% increase in performance in those working from home and a fall in staff turnover of 50%. Staff took less time on their breaks, were sick less often and answered 4% more phone calls per minute than their office-based colleagues. Businesses can experience between a 3-13% cost reduction when employing a flexible worker.
The gender balance in flexible working is beginning to even out, showing a real shift to flexible working for all, with as many men now working flexible hours as women, and nearly as many men working from home.
Managers have identified the skills and characteristics required to make homeworking successful. In particular, employees need to:
- manage their workload and focus on results
- manage their time effectively
- be trustworthy
- be committed to team and organisational goals
In the UK, 94% of companies now offer staff some form of flexible working and 73% of managers say their organisations support further development of flexible working arrangements. For global companies, flexible working ensures that business activities can be conducted outside of normal working hours.
As the new ‘Facebook Generation’ begins to climb the corporate ladder, many employees are adopting a different perspective on an acceptable work/lifestyle balance. To recruit a more diverse workforce and to attract the most able and innovative talent, human resource departments are having to promote more flexible working schemes. These arrangements create more agile working environments and motivated staff and are shown to have a significant impact on a firm’s Return on Investment (ROI) and other performance measures.
Philip Ross, the CEO of Unwork believes that when it comes to working arrangements:
“One size doesn’t fit all. It’s down to people and how they can do great work. We need to add a suffix to everything from the future to adopt a consumption model: working, not work, computing not computer, and so on.”