February 22, 2013
Less than one fifth of staff are being encouraged to work flexibly, with businesses failing to reap the rewards of increased productivity and employee well-being resulting from modern work practices and technology. New research by O2 reveals that whilst staff are ready to embrace new ways of working and understand the benefits, it is employers who are holding them back. More than three quarters (77 per cent) of employers say that flexible working is actively encouraged across their organisation but less than a fifth (19 per cent) of staff say their company encourages them to work flexibly.
O2 Business Director, Ben Dowd, commented: “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.”
According to the mobile operator’s study of more than 400 businesses and 2,000 employees three quarters (75 per cent) admit they are most productive when they can change when and where they work and one in ten (11 per cent) even rate flexi-working as a more important benefit than their holiday allowance and salary.
Yet the research highlights a clear disconnect in what businesses say and do, and employee perceptions of the policies and support that are in place to help them:
- Businesses are failing to effectively communicate their flexible working policies to staff: 56 per cent of employers state they have a clear flexible working policy versus just 30 per cent of employees who agree
- Employees aren’t aware of the tools and technology available to them to work remotely: 54 per cent of employers say they give their staff the tools and technology to work remotely, while just one third of employees agree
- Managers don’t lead by example: 70 per cent of managers say they try to set an example by frequently working from home or changing their working hours, but only 18 per cent of employees agree that this is the case
- Men are more likely to change the way they work than women: 30per cent more men than women work outside of the usual nine to five
O2 argues that by creating a single massive moment of reappraisal that effectively shocks the business into action, it is possible to significantly alter the flexible working culture within an organisation.
Last year O2 set up its own flexible working pilot and now reports that one third of employees have actively changed their work behavior with 85 per cent of O2 employees saying they will keep flexi-working and 40 per cent more employees now flexi-working more than once a week.
Dowd continued: “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 9 to 5.”