flexibleAccording to research by mobile operator O2, businesses are failing to grasp the advantages of allowing employees to work flexibly and by not using fresh, modern approaches.

Its study of more than 400 employers and 2,000 employees found that although staff may be ready to embrace alternative ways of working and attempt to comprehend the benefits that can come from it, employers are apparently holding them back.

The research revealed that 75% of employees feel they are most productive when they are able to change when and where they work, and furthermore 11% even state that flexi-working is more important than holiday allowance and salary.

But only 19% say their company encourages them to work flexibly, even though 77% of employers claim that flexible working is actively encouraged.

Various elements of the survey indicate that staff and employers have different ideas of how well business is supporting flexible working. One example is; 56% of companies say that they have a clear policy on the issue, whereas only 30% of employees validate this claim.

When asked about whether staff are provided with the tools to work remotely, 54% of employers claim they do give their employees the tools and technology to do so, however only one-third of employees agree.

Also, 70% of managers say they set an example by frequently working from home or changing their working hours, but only 18% of staff agree that this is the case.

Commenting on the findings, O2 Business Director, Ben Dowd, said:

“Just six months since Britain’s biggest flexible working opportunity, the Olympics, it’s shocking that less than one fifth of people feel they are encouraged to work flexibly.

“Businesses must sit up and take notice of this critical evolution in employee behaviour and create a business culture equipped to support it. Talking about it simply isn’t enough. To create a truly flexible working culture, actions speak louder than words.”

Dowd added:

“The changes we’ve seen in our own workforce since our pilot speak for themselves. With the right mix of technology, policy and education, Britain’s workforce can embrace the opportunities that flexible working can bring in, helping them shape their own definition of the nine-to-five.”

O2 says that more than 40% of its own staff flexi-work more than one day a week, saving 100,000 miles of travel, 30 tonnes of CO2 and £20,000 of fuel per month. It also claims that it has helped to double productivity.