18/03/2013

By Liz Reynolds, HR Director at Trustmarque


Flexible working has been hitting the news quite a bit recently, all starting from the Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer, telling staff they must stop working remotely and join one of the Yahoo! offices by June or quit. A drastic approach which resulted in some backing from other high profile CEO’s, notably those in the creative and technology industries. Vogue’s Alexandra Shulman states working from home does not allow employees to perform as well as they would in the office, additionally Mind Candy has moved to a new London office in order to have all employees under one roof.

However, recent research from Vodafone directly contradicted this position, finding that UK companies could save as much as £34 billion a year by introducing better flexible working policies. O2 has also looked into flexible working and has identified a huge disconnect between what employers say their flexible working policies are and what employees recognise them to be.

I’m likely to agree more with Vodafone’s position in that flexible working can provide many benefits to an organisation; not just cost savings. At Trustmarque we find that our employees are far more productive and more motivated when we trust them to work from home and other remote locations. What’s more, offering technology consultancy to our customers means that many of our staff need to spend time directly with those customers, across the length and breadth of the UK, so it would be impossible for our business to exist as a national company if we were to restrict them to a single desk.

A strong flexible working policy embeds itself into the culture of an organisation and, we find, often makes employees feel more valued. Our good flexible working policy was one of the key reasons for our recent success in the Sunday Times Best Small Companies awards.

Flexible and remote working doesn’t just benefit your own organisation; it can also have significant knock-on effects on other local businesses, particularly for those with offices outside of large cities. With our management teams travelling to York, our main office, at least once a fortnight, we bring business to local hoteliers, restaurants, taxi firms, and so on.

Organisations considering forcing their employees to work on-site should remember that a one size fits all approach doesn’t always work. A strict 9-5 routine can result in employees becoming resentful and stopping their work as soon as the clock hits 5pm, even if the job at hand isn’t complete. Whereas we’ve frequently noted that remote workers will often work through to make sure they finish the job. Additionally these organisations put themselves at risk of putting off prospective employees, for example, mothers who cannot afford full-time childcare or those who need to travel long distances to get to the office.

I’m not suggesting that employees should work from home every day, as I agree that some of the best creative ideas come from face to face employee collaboration. However, we should embrace the opportunities technology can provide and give employees the flexibility to carry out their work from remote locations, whether that is from home or a customer’s office. If you intend on employing the best talent available, you need to be flexible and give them the chance to flourish in the environments most suited to their needs