Flexible Working: Let’s Make It Mainstream

A recent study[1] revealed that nearly a third of UK HR directors cite ‘inability to balance personal and professional commitments’ as the primary reason for employee burnout.  Could the new UK government legislation offering flexible working rights for all help make a difference?

Under the new policy, British employees are now offered the right to request flexible working hours.  It has been estimated that this will help increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and lower labour turnover – bringing economic benefits of about £475m within the next 10 years.

An estimated 8.7 million full time employees want to work part time or from home more often.  However, the myth that it is ‘not ambitious’ to work a pattern other than 5 full days a week in the office could potentially hold us back from making flexible working mainstream.

Flexible thinking is paramount in terms of finding new ways of working that challenge the current corporate culture of overwork.  Crucially, flexibility needs to come from the top down in order to develop more flexible work policies that support sustainable work patterns. Karen Mattison MBE, Co-founder of Timewise is keen to challenge people’s out-dated attitudes and is searching for case studies of senior and high flying flexible workers to help inspire others to lead by example.

In order to help highlight the fact that both men and women in seriously senior jobs are working less than five full days per week and still achieving incredible things and leading amazing businesses, Timewise are compiling a ‘Power Part Time List’ to be published in the Financial Times and the end of the year.  To nominate someone go to:  http://timewise.co.uk/power-part-time/

Telecommuting, flexi-time, compressed workweeks, job sharing and reduced schedules are examples of some schemes that have already been introduced and trialled by forward-thinking companies. Many organisations report the great benefits that such policies have started to bring, not just to the employees utilising them but also to business, profitability and productivity.

For example, companies that permit telecommuting often report a significant reduction in costs. According to a review conducted by Global Workplace Analytics of 500 telecommuting studies, allowing telework has reduced attrition, saving £6,000 – £17,500 on average, per employee. Remote working also reduces unscheduled absences, which typically cost employers £1,050 per employee, per year. Real estate rental costs decrease on average by £6,000 per full-time teleworker and relocation costs can be completely eliminated.

Cost savings are not the only benefit realised in these efforts. Many companies are finding that client satisfaction often increases as a result of job-sharing arrangements in particular; where two people share the responsibility of what would previously have been an account or project, managed by one person. Often these arrangements are proven to be extremely successful, both personally and professionally, because clients gain the advantage of utilising ‘two brains’ instead of one.

Flexible work policies require flexible thinking and need flexibility in their implementation in such a way that creates a shift in corporate culture. The success of flexible working arrangements foster open and honest communication channels, in addition to engendering mutual trust and respect between colleagues.

The archaic model of an exemplary employee being the first person to arrive at the office, last to leave, willing to work over weekends and forgoing vacations needs to be replaced by the person who adds the most value to the organisation via the originality, quality and results of their work, regardless of where or for how long their work is carried out.

Follow Jayne Morris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/burnoutexpert

[1] Conducted by Robert Half UK – http://www.roberthalf.co.uk/id/PR-03557/Employee-Burnout

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