By Max Clarke

The bigger the organisation, the less likely they are to offer flexible working to their employees.

This is according to research consisting of some 1,500 interviews, commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Vanson Bourne.

It found that smaller businesses were leading the way in changing how we work by adopting appropriate technologies and by allowing their employees to be flexible in their working hours.

“Organisations that will be successful in the future are those that break down the barriers between people, workplace and technology and establish a culture of trust,” said Klaus Holse Andersen, vice president of Western Europe for Microsoft. “This means empowering people by providing them with a workplace that facilitates flexibility, self-direction and engagement and enabling them with the technology and tools that help them to be productive wherever they are.

“To bring the vision of a new world of work to life, leadership teams need to establish a culture that is focused on what individuals achieve, rather than how long they spend in the office.”

According to a recent white paper from Microsoft UK’s Hybrid Organisation initiative, barriers to new ways of working often occur in the middle layers of business. “Often they are the managers who don’t like the idea of having their office taken away from them, and they manage by control instead of by results,” said Peter de Winter, programme director for Workplace Innovation, Philips, a programme introduced five years ago to encourage its people to be more entrepreneurial and innovative. “Most employees and managers, however, love to work according to the new ways of working once they are used to the concept.”

Technology plays a vital role in realising the potential of working flexibly, and the IT department holds one of the keys to success - by providing the right off-premises support. However, just 19 per cent of employees find their already overstretched IT team “very helpful” in providing technology support for flexible working. In addition, more than half of all workers say they don’t have access to a company laptop or mobile email device, which means they are lacking the basic tools.

This could also be a reason why 43 per cent of all office workers and one-third of those working for a large enterprise use either a personal laptop or mobile device for email access. And it may explain why 68 per cent of employees who work overtime each week do so from the office. Even though technology is widely available today to enable flexible working - be it mobile devices or cloud services granting access to software and company resources from virtually everywhere - its natural use in European businesses is still not standard.

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