7 reasons why businesses should promote flexible working

With new technology making it easier to work anywhere, anytime, the traditional 9-5 as we know it is effectively dead

7 reasons why businesses should promote flexible working

by Paul Burrin, VP, Sage People

What hours did you work yesterday?

Chances are, it wasn’t 9-5.

The world of work as we know it is changing. With new technology making it easier to work anywhere, anytime, the traditional 9-5 as we know it is effectively dead.

In fact, just 6% of the workforce works these hours.

Having flexibility in their working schedule is now a key priority for employees, helping them to successfully juggle work and home-life responsibilities.

In fact, more than 80% of 3,500 employees Sage People polled globally placed importance and value on flexible and remote working.

Valuing a work life balance has become increasingly important – whether this is to meet family needs, personal obligations or just to avoid rush hour – it is clear that giving employees increased control over their work schedule is good for employees, making it good for business.

With that in mind, here are seven reasons why business leaders should be embracing the benefits of flexible working.

1. The world of work has changed
The line between work life and home life is much more blurred than it was even just a few years ago.

For example, it’s now commonplace for people to demand virtual meetings, the ability to work from home and even have ‘duvet days’ when required, rather than having to suffer through the dreaded commute for three hours a day.

Furthermore, modern work responsibilities are often cross-functional, requiring staff to interact with a wider range of people in different time zones.

As a result, constraints on how, where and when we work should be updated to reflect this cultural shift.

Businesses must be prepared to accept that the working world has changed if they want to truly motivate and engage employees.

2. There’s a war for talent
With top talent becoming harder and harder to attract and retain, many industries are facing widespread skills shortages.

As a result, in-demand employees can be much more selective – and the desire for flexibility is a key factor.

For example, a recent study found that 54% of people would be willing to move jobs to gain greater flexibility.

Employers who offer flexible working will therefore attract the best talent and will also be more likely to retain these employees for longer.

In today’s ultra-competitive business landscape, this could be the difference between success and failure.

3. Flexible working boosts productivity
Workforce productivity has become a global issue. Our research shows that employees are typically working only 30 hours a week, which means there’s a whole day when they’re in the office, but not actually working.

What’s more, most people who work a 40-hour week feel they are productive for only 3.75 days out of the 5-day working week.

Revolutionising productivity in new ways, such as giving employees the freedom to work in the way that best suits them, could go a long way towards narrowing the productivity gap and enabling businesses to get the most out of their staff.

4. Flexible working empowers employees, and shows that you trust them
Our research also found that workers want to feel valued and recognised, with two-thirds (66%) of those surveyed seeing this as the most important aspect of their day-to-day working life.

For many, this is so much more vital than office perks, like games in the office or free food.

Giving employees the freedom to work in their own way shows them that they are a valued and trusted member of the team. It also empowers them to perform to a high standard and be as productive as possible.

5. It supports worker wellbeing
The health and wellbeing of staff has become more of a priority for businesses in recent years, as well as being increasingly vital for employees themselves.

Over a third of employees we polled (39%) believe HR and People teams could do more to improve wellness at work, with initiatives such as providing free fruit or offering a subsidised gym membership now proving popular.

Flexible working can help in this area by reducing stress (no more mad dashes to the train station), making it something that companies need to pay attention to.

6. Employees want flexible working
One of the most important reasons for businesses to embrace flexible working is simply because its what staff want.

According to Fuze, nearly 50% of workers across all generations would like to be more mobile at work, rising to 70% for those aged 16-44.

Employees want to be able to pick their kids up from school, start and finish early if they have international calls first thing in the morning, or be able to head to a doctors’ appointment without fear they might be slacking.

Businesses would therefore be wise to listen to what their employees want and respond accordingly.

7. Technology has changed
Arguably the most straightforward argument for remote working is that staff simply no longer need to be in the office to do their jobs effectively.

Most workers now have all the tools they need on their smartphones and tablets, which means they can comfortably work from anywhere – be that a coffee shop between meetings, their home, or somewhere where they can best work undistracted.

For example, cloud technology gives employees secure access to documents externally, while collaboration and communication tools enable staff to work together from opposite sides of the globe.

With that in mind, isn’t it time the way we work changed to reflect these capabilities?

Ultimately, enabling flexible working should be a focus for all businesses. From aiding talent retention, to creating positive workplace experiences – which is important to 92% of people – the long and short-term benefits could prove invaluable.

Most importantly, giving employees flexibility will result in a happier, more engaged and more productive workforce.

In an age of continuing disruption and increasing competition, that’s not something businesses can afford to ignore.

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