There’s no doubt that the climate among employers is warming to the changing world of remote working. Recent research, for example, highlighted how UK small business owners are recognising the role of flexible working practices, with almost two-thirds actively supporting it.
And it gets better. More than four in five believe that offering flexible working is essential to running a successful business. And for nearly half, offering flexible hours is seen as key to attracting and retaining the best talent.
The study showed that almost 40 per cent of small business owners would allow employees to work away from the office if they requested the option. This is especially important in light of government legislation which came into effect in April 2009, giving an additional 4.5 million parents the right to apply for flexible working.
However, just as elsewhere in the business, the carrot is always more appealing than the stick in driving successful change. It’s no surprise therefore that business owners themselves see the benefits of flexible working and web commuting – using the internet to work from anywhere – as it gives them more control over their working day and provide greater job satisfaction.
In passing these same benefits on to their staff, employers also recognise the positive impact this can have on unexpected or unplanned events, such as family emergencies, personal illness or bad weather.
Once momentum is generated, other benefits become apparent. Where employee travel is required, for example, two-thirds of small businesses are willing to allow participation in online meetings in place of in-person meetings, as they saw the commercial benefits of increased productivity and reduced travel costs.
This trend towards more flexible working by small business owners is encouraging, as they make up 99 per cent of UK businesses. And the fact that this would be well-received by their staff was reinforced by a parallel finding that one out of five workers surveyed said they would be willing to take a pay cut in return for being able to work remotely and have increased flexibly.
So, by providing the right tools for their staff to work from anywhere, businesses can help them achieve the work/life balance they want. This creates a real win/win for the business. By increasing job satisfaction, staff retention levels go up: at the same time, productivity is maintained and disruption to the business cut to a minimum.