Flexible working is the way forward

No business owner wants to lose their best employees. Every business owner wants to recruit the best employees. The ability to do this is no longer just a question of offering the highest salary, private health cover, a good pension or share options, etc.

It’s now just as important to offer flexible working conditions which include the ability to work from home, at least part of the time. The ability to work flexibly is quickly rising up the list of benefits which employees, both current and potential, are looking for.

HOP Associates has conducted a staff survey and the ability to work from home one to two days a week was the most important flexible working benefit being selected by over half (65%) of respondents.

The desire to work from home is not altogether new. A survey of over 2,000 UK workers carried out in 2009 by YouGov indicated that 67% of respondents would like to work from home at least some of the time. Another YouGov survey conducted in 2006 with 2,234 people showed that 37% of men and 34% of woman would forego part of their next pay rise if they were able to from home.

Bearing the above statistics in mind, let’s take a closer look at why employers today should seriously consider putting flexible working policies in place which enable employees to work from home for say, two days a week.

Enabling employees to work from home allows employees to look for work opportunities without the restriction of geographic boundaries. This increases the pool of talent available to your company, making it accessible to potential employees who need no longer be so concerned about the location of the potential vacancy.

A long commute is less of an issue if it only has to be made three times a week.

Unsurprisingly, working from home appeals to employees of all ages. As we grow older most of us would like to improve our work/life balance. The generation born after the baby boom ended, now refered to as Generation X, do not want to follow their workaholic parents example.

Those employees born in the ’80s and ’90s, and often referred to as Generation Y, use digital and electronic technology as second nature and have also grown up challenging authority. They will certainly question established ways of working. These younger potential employees will understand exactly that the technology exists that enables them to work from home just as if they were in the office.

The lack of flexible working opportunities makes it difficult for Mums with children under 16 to work full-time. This begs the question as to how many Mums who would like to bring their experience and talents to your company, are simply unable to do so.

Flexible working also helps to provide employment opportunities for adult caregivers. A Department of Trade and Industry survey of 2,000 adults in 2007 showed that 15% of men and woman aged between 45 to 54 had the highest level of caring responsibilities. 20% spent more than 20 hours of week providing adult care. These statistics highlight that there is potentially a large pool of unused talent among adult caregivers.

The ability to work flexibly is a crucial tool in helping those with disabilities play a full role in society. The more companies that offer the ability to work from home, the more employment opportunities there will be for disabled workers to find employment.

If, and fingers crossed this never happens, your company is struck by a catastrophe for example: bad weather, a train/tube/bus strike volcanic ash or something as simple as a loss of power, and you have already implemented flexible working practices, you will be able to continue to operate pretty much as normal. Your employees can work from home just as if they were in the office.

The rising demands of existing and potential employees to work flexibly are no doubt challenging the traditional ways in which we conduct business. Today’s business leaders need to accept the new way in which employees need to work – flexibly.

Working today is about what your employees do, not where they do it, when they do it or, how they do it.

All statistics are taken from The Shifting Nature of Work in the UK – Bottom Line Benefits of Telework (Apr 2011) – Telework Research Network, sponsored by Citrix Online.

With over 25 years of experience in technology and telecommunications, Tim Duffy was one of the early pioneers in the conferencing and collaboration industry. Having spent 12 years at GEC developing new video compression and communications technologies, he joined PictureTel Corporation in 1991 as founder of its European operations. PictureTel rapidly became the dominant videoconferencing supplier worldwide with over $100m of European revenues. In 1999 he moved to PictureTel’s Boston headquarters to lead the worldwide product business, which was later sold to Polycom. On leaving PictureTel, after a brief spell in venture capital, Tim raised funds to establish MeetingZone in 2002. MeetingZone is dedicated to the provision of simple corporate class conferencing and collaboration services and has grown rapidly into a major player in the industry.