Flexible working isn’t just a trend. Though of immense and obvious benefit to staff, these programmes have to potential to serve businesses just as well. Whether it’s adaptable hours or work-from-home days, here are six crucial reasons why your company should consider offering flexible working.
Make your business more resilient
Transport issues of any kind hit industry hard, particularly in London; the tube strikes last summer cost the capital close to £300 million. Just this month in London we’ve seen chaos due to malfunctions on the Piccadilly and, from the sixth, further strike action. Remember this December will be abnormally cold, with chances of snow and ice, and you’ve got all the signs of a chaotic Christmas transport season.
How to protect your company over this period? Let your employees work from home. Eliminate the daily commute and suddenly your workforce is immune not only to transport disruptions but weather-induced delays and contagious ailments.
Because that’s right: sick employees who would normally spread illness in the office are rendered harmless by a work-from-home quarantine. The benefits of this should not be underestimated; figures show that 131 million UK work days were lost to sickness in 2013, costing the economy billions.
What’s more, allowing employees to work from home has been proven to reduce absenteeism. Sickly colleagues are more likely to put in a day’s work despite illness if permitted to do so from the safety of their lounge. What’s more, stressed workers are less likely to feign illness if they have the option of spending a workday at home.
Make your workforce more efficient
The British commute is growing – in price as well as length. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that almost four million UK workers travel for two hours or longer every weekday. As a nation, we spend an average of £160 a month on travel fees. And of course both statistics are much higher within London.
If the national average commute clocks in at just under an hour, with most London desk-jobbers burning an hour each way, it’s no wonder that we’re looking for alternatives.
Those 120 minutes spent on travel are an eighth of your employee’s waking day. In fact, the commute is the biggest inefficiency in our quotidian rhythm; eliminate it, and watch your employees reap the rewards in both work and play.
Make your staff more productive
A recent Polycom, Inc. survey showed that employees are 39% more productive at companies with flexible working programmes. In the solitude and relaxation of a home environment, many workers feel less distracted and more motivated to work. In fact, recent studies show that desk-jobbers waste six hours of company time a week on disturbances inherent in the office space.
What about employee transparency? It’s easy to worry that home-workers will fritter away company time, concentrating on that personal project instead of what you pay them for. The answer is simple: make it clear to employees what you expect from them.
Measure success not by time spent but tasks completed. Set down clear short-term targets and long-term objectives and ask for regular evidence that these are being completed. If they are, your fears are unfounded. If not, you can put several disciplinary strategies into play, including the withdrawal of home-working privileges.
Although communication can problematic with telecommuting, the correct use of technology can solve most issues. Ensure your employees are making use of tried-and-tested mobile worker tools. With the right resources, they’ll be as looped in as if they were at the office desk.
Make your company more forward thinking
The concept of the 9-5 is literally Victorian. And, despite earning the support of Karl Marx, the eight-hour day is no longer the way many of us orient our lives.
Flexible working allows parents to work during school hours and after the kids have gone to bed. It lets larks and owls optimise the work pattern according to personal productivity peaks. It gives employees greater control over their working lives, and thus greater power to innovate and perform.
And mobile working is the way the world is going, undeniably. It’s already law in the UK for workers to request flexible work schedules half a year into a job.
A report from property firm JLL confirms that, over the next twenty years, businesses will rapidly revise their use of office space. Workplaces will be more mobile, widespread and flexible, allowing employees to work in a high-tech, mobile manner from all over the UK.
Surely it’s better to introduce these programmes now, working out optimal strategies for mobilisation, than to wake up ten years down the line and find your business is behind the curve.
Make your culture more responsible
Want to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, improve gender equality, and provide better accessibility for disabled employees? Easy: offer flexible working options.
Emissions from business travel and the daily commute remain high in the UK, leading top companies like PwC to push ahead with reduction schemes. If your company isn’t environmentally friendly, it isn’t worthy of the 21st century. It’s simple: reducing workers’ weekly commute by one day a week will cut a company’s carbon footprint by up to a fifth.
Employees with physical or mental disabilities benefit immensely from flexible work options, as do new parents with young children to care for – still typically women, who would otherwise be forced to miss out on work opportunities post-childbirth. Their gratitude will surely manifest in company loyalty, the benefits of which I shouldn’t have to tout here.
If you consider yourself and your company socially responsible, these are the measures you must consider taking.
Make your employees happier
Who doesn’t want a happy workforce? The content worker operates faster, more reliably and to time, and is less likely to desert your cause, resulting in annoying turnover issues. Want to give your employees what they want? Give them flexible working options.
The popularity of office-rent companies like Regus show how mobile working is catching on. Recent studies show that flexible working is one of the top desires of the modern workforce. Since millennials in particular value life-work balance over salary, offering flexibility benefits may even reduce your wage outlay in the long-term.
Of course, there will always be issues in making the transition from office to telecommuting hours. Security risks inherent in mobile working will always be a concern, and should be minimised as much as possible through government recommendations.
In addition, resistors to new measures within the organisation will be inevitable. To avoid too much dissent, make sure some office space – reduced or not – remains available for those who wish to make use of it, and ensure that all employees remain liable to the same discipline and requirements for transparency as before.