January 12, 2015
UK employers and their female employees are missing out on a range of opportunities because of their failure to implement better flexible working arrangements, according to a report from The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). The report examined flexible working across Europe and found that while significant progress had been made in the UK, nearly two thirds (64 percent) of working women are unable to vary their working hours and a quarter (25 percent) claim it is difficult to take one or two hours from their day at short notice. The report claims the pent up demand for such working arrangements restricts employment opportunities for women compared to men, means more women are working in jobs below their skill level and creates the conditions for extensive underemployment.
January 12, 2015
A growing number of employers see flexible working arrangements as an important tool for meeting the needs of their aging workforce, according to a new report from insurance industry trade association Group Risk Development (GRiD). The report highlights how changing attitudes, demographics, longer life expectancy and the abolition of the UK’s Default Retirement Age three years ago have encouraged employers to look at how to foster the wellbeing and meet the needs of older employees. Over a quarter (27 percent) of the 500 UK businesses who took part in the study had introduced flexible working specifically to meet the needs of their ageing workforce and many (22 percent) of employers said dealing with an ageing workforce was among their top three wellbeing issues.
January 9, 2015
Although we would normally offer the findings of a survey without comment, preferring readers to add their own pinch of salt, it’s sometimes interesting to question the way research is presented. This week a study by O2 claimed that in the six months since nearly all full time UK workers were granted the right to request flexible working, 23 percent of staff have taken advantage of the option. While there is nothing unusual in a mobile tech firm producing a survey about flexible working, what is interesting is that they have chosen to present this as ‘only 23 percent’ and many in the press have gone along with it. Now, unless I’ve missed something, isn’t it actually remarkable that nearly a quarter of UK employees have requested flexible working in a six month period?
January 8, 2015
The use of tech outside of office hours can have a detrimental effects on workers’ wellbeing according to a paper presented this week at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology conference in Glasgow. A meta-analysis by Svenja Schlachter and colleagues from the University of Surrey sought to determine the effects of being constantly “switched on” for work and found a blurring of boundaries between work and private life. The research showed that employees use a number of devices outside of office hours in the hope that staying “switched on” will increase flexibility and efficiency and because they believe there is a strong expectation to be available 24/7. This often has a negative effect on their work-life balance and increases stress.
January 7, 2015
A new report by TechPro Research claims that just five years after it was first given the label, the practice of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is now so prevalent that nearly three quarters (74 percent) of organisations are either already using or planning to allow employees to bring their own devices to work. The report contrasts with past research into the uptake of BYOD to show how quickly the practice is developing and its implications for companies as a way of introducing new working practices and cutting costs (their own, natch) but also in the way they deal with the potential downsides relating to security and maintenance. The report also looks at the evolving role of the practice in light of new technologies such as wearable tech and the Internet of Things.
January 6, 2015
The Government should develop more policies that meet the needs of the growing numbers of self-employed in the UK and across Europe. That is the message of a new report from think tank The Institute for Public Policy Research which points out that while 40 percent of the rise in job levels since 2010 has been in self-employment, the Government should accept this is not a blip but a structural change in the way many people work and develop appropriate policies to meet their needs. The report argues that self-employment is already the new normal for some 4 million UK workers and the Government should take steps to ensure their pensions, training and earnings are in step with the rest of the workforce.
January 1, 2015
A report published at the end of December by the non-profit Pew Research Center claims that while nearly half of US workers believe that new technology helps them to be more productive, it also means they are working significantly longer hours. The study of 535 people claims that 46 per cent of US workers believe that the internet, email, and mobile phones have upped their productivity, while only 7 per cent think they have led to a fall in their productivity. Over a third (39 percent) of those surveyed say that they now have more flexible working hours, and a similar number (35 percent) believe that new technology has increased the number of hours they work. For office based workers the changes are even more pronounced with nearly half (47 percent) seeing an increase in their working hours.
December 29, 2014
The tap roots of the digital economy will not spread beneath the concrete of Tech City and other urban enclaves, but in the fertile soil of the UK countryside. That is the finding of a new briefing document from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which claims that rural areas are set to overtake towns and cities as the main driver of Britain’s digital economy. As a result of improvements in the country’s digital infrastructure and transport links as well as a changing relationship between firms, employees and contractors, there are now more people moving to the countryside from towns and cities than those moving in the opposite direction. The briefing suggests that by 2025, the rural economy will be worth an additional £35 billion and the productivity of rural areas could outstrip urban areas for the first time since the industrial revolution.
December 29, 2014
Positive attitudes towards flexible working are increasing amongst UK employers, according to a new survey from the Government. The latest edition of the Work–Life Balance Employer Survey, published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, claims that over half (56 percent) of employers consider flexible working good for their business. The survey reports other major attitudinal shifts since the last edition was published in 2007, including the fact that the proportion of employers who agree with the statement ‘employees should not be able to change patterns if it disrupts the business’ has dropped from 73 percent to just 49 percent. The survey of just over 2,000 employers also found that the adoption of one particular form of flexible working – job sharing – had decreased in the intervening period while most others had increased markedly.
December 23, 2014
The latest venue to be co-opted as a potential flexible working space is the public library. According to a new report published last week by William Sieghart, based on research into over 150 locations and hundreds of written submissions, the key to saving Britain’s imperilled public libraries is for them to introduce more seating, Wi-Fi connectivity and hot drinks and food. The provision of fast and reliable Wi-Fi access was named as one of the key actions to draw more people away from coffee shops, which often prove popular venues for flexible working, and into libraries. The report, published by the Department for Culture Media and Sport found that a third of libraries currently do not offer visitors Wi-Fi, which is a “shocking” statistic, according to report author, William Sieghart. “So they’re slated for closure while everyone’s in the Costa opposite, where there’s a loo, hot drinks and internet access.”
December 22, 2014
In the latest issue of the Insight newsletter which is available to view online; Mark Eltringham takes issue with a growing intolerance of sitting, and counsels against making wild predictions about the effect wearable tech will have on the workplace. Maciej Markowski says homeworking brings easily measurable benefits, but can also diminish creativity and Charles Marks argues that the important point of flexible working is that staff are empowered to work in ways that are best for them. Adam Burtt-Jones examines the relationship between workplace design and its culture; Andrew Brown looks at the impact of the soft landings principle and Sara Bean reveals that the quality of management in the UK has seen little improvement over the last decade. Sign up to the newsletter via the subscription form in the right hand sidebar and follow us on Twitter and join our LinkedIn Group to discuss these and other stories.
December 19, 2014
Homeworking seems to have become a bit of a hot topic this year, but one sentence published on the www.gov.uk website brought a cold sweat to the brows of many managers and employees across the United Kingdom. “From 30 June 2014, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers.” Despite the fact that the law allowing flexible start and finish times and working from home only covers employees who have worked for a company for at least 26 weeks and that the employers are still able to disallow it as long as it’s done in a ‘reasonable manner’, the threat of being sent to an employment tribunal brings some HR managers to the brink of hysteria. But is this really justifiable? The truth is, the new government policy will probably make flexi-work more common, but it’s already being implemented quite successfully across the globe, with plentiful research on its impact so far.
Sign up to our newsletter
Join thousands of other workplace professionals to receive regular updates and access premium content