According to a report conducted by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation, by next year flexible working will become more common than working from an office.
But for companies to reap the benefits of flexible working, practices must be developed with staff and designed to encourage working smarter rather than longer, as well as measuring output rather than visibility.
Flexible working can result in increased productivity, improved employee wellbeing, talent attraction and retention, and reduction in accommodation costs.
The report predicted that flexible working will be the main way of working for 70 percent of organisations by 2020, according to the research with 500 managerial level employees within medium to large businesses.
The research showed that the benefits of mobile working are understood, with 44 percent of respondents believing it allowed them to get more work done. 42 percent said it made them feel more trusted and 35 percent said it was essential for their work life balance.
“The evidence is showing a clear trend towards a more flexible way of working in the UK as the hurdles are overcome by fresh innovations in technology and people management,” said Dr Cathy Garner, director of the Work Foundation and author of the report.
Organisations that have introduced successful flexible working – such as BT, Stanford University and the Children and Family Court and Advisory and Support Service – resulting in improved productivity, happier workforces and reduced staff turnover, were highlighted in the report.
However, the report also highlighted barriers to change. More than a third of managers believed mobile working would result in longer hours and becoming disconnected from their team, while 28 percent felt it could block them from overseeing others’ work. Some 24 percent said all work in their organisation is carried out on company premises suggesting a cultural barrier to working ‘on-the-go’.
There were also concerns about pressures on HR. Three quarters said it would be a challenge for their organisation, 84 percent said it would require changes to performance management and 82 percent said it would require changes to employment terms and conditions.
The research suggested that chief executives and board members should set an example on mobile working and wellbeing. Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School, said a successful mobile working strategy must only be “enabled” and “must never be enforced”.
He added: “By enabling a culture whereby working anywhere is the rule – rather than the exception – employers immediately put trust at the heart of their company ethos – a key to providing a happier and more fulfilling relationship with its staff.”
Jacqueline de Rojas, area VP Northern Europe at Citrix, which commissioned the report, said: “Employers have a key role to play if the UK is to fullfill its potential as a digital nation, ensuring that the right technology is in place and by appointing inspirational leaders to encourage a smart, flexible approach.”
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