Few employers offer digital tools or support for flexible working

Majority of staff not been given digital tools to work remotelyAs we reported recently, flexible working has become a massive recruitment incentive, and this is reflected in yet another survey which found nearly three quarters of parents rate flexible working as very important when they are looking for a new job. Homeworking remains the most popular form of flexi-work, yet according to the survey from Workingmums.co.uk of over 2,000 parents, relatively few employers supply equipment or technical support to enable people to work outside the office. It seems the desire amongst employers to accommodate home workers is there, but not the will to furnish them with the tools they need to do the job properly. In fact, the majority of homeworkers use their own equipment and have to deal with any problems themselves. Though 36 per cent can call on technical support if they get into trouble, unsurprisingly, the survey of over 2,000 parents, sponsored by BBC Future Media, found that many still lack full confidence in remote communications tools despite their desire to work from home.

The survey found that homeworking was the most attractive type of flexible working that could be offered in a new role – with the main reason being because it allowed parents to do the school run. This rated 4 per cent higher than saving time and money on commuting. Some 64 per cent work some of the week from home, while a quarter work most of the time from home.

Almost nine out of 10 working parents have a smartphone, but only 7 per cent have one supplied by work. Some 62 per cent own a tablet, but only three per cent say their employer gives them a tablet. Asked what equipment an employer could supply which would help with homeworking, 74 per cent opted for a laptop, 17 per cent felt a tablet would be most helpful and only 9 per cent favoured a smartphone.

Some 77 per cent check emails outside work hours with 41 per cent doing so daily. Over two thirds have been contacted while on holiday, with 17 per cent saying this happens frequently.

Unsurprisingly, this makes for mixed views on whether technology has helped their work life balance. Some 37 per cent feel they have a better work-life balance as technology has allowed them to work more flexibly, 12 per cent feel that technology means they are working all hours, but the majority (51%) feel torn – they see the benefits of working flexibly due to new technologies but also feel that it encroaches on family time.

The majority (57%) do not use cloud-based systems. Of the 36 per cent who do use them, only a third have had a positive experience. Similarly, of those who have taken part in online training, 40 per cent said it was less effective than face to face training.

Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, said: “The survey results are interesting because they show the clear appetite for homeworking, but also suggest the need for improvements in the services required to support that, such as technical support and a better quality of tools for enabling homeworking.”