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Record uptake of flexible working masks what is really changing about the way we work

Flexible workingThis week the Office for National Statistics has released new figures which show that flexible working is at a record high in the UK. The headline figure from the ONS is that 14 percent of the UK workforce now either work at home full time (5 percent) or use their home as a base (8.9 percent). This represents a 1.3 million increase over the six years since the onset of the recession. The report shows that those working from home are typically skilled, older (half between the age of 25 and 49 with 40 percent of over 65s classed as homeworkers) and better paid than the average worker (30 percent higher than the national average). The Government is claiming it as a victory for the promotion of flexible working through legislation and the TUC as a sign of the increasingly enlightened approach of bosses in helping employees find a better work life balance. And they’re both wrong.

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Many UK firms are unaware of new flexible working rules, or unready for them

ostriches-head-in-sandThe UK is introducing new flexible working legislation at the end of this month, but two new surveys highlight a startling lack of awareness of the changes. According to research from Jobsite, more than half of UK firms and three quarters of employees are unaware of the changes and 25 percent of those firms who are aware of the new law hadn’t considered its implications. The second survey, from QualitySolicitors (sic), found an almost identical lack of awareness amongst SMEs, with just under half of the firms unaware of the new rules and just over a quarter admitting to being unprepared for them. The changes mean that from 30 June, all employees who have worked for their employer for at least six months will be entitled to request alternative working patterns.

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Property sector calls for introduction of mandatory energy standards

Property sector urges government to introduce mandatory energy standardsAhead of the Queen’s Speech today, business leaders from some of the UK’s biggest property owners, developers and occupiers are urging the Government to end the “prevarication” around the introduction of mandatory energy standards for privately rented commercial buildings, amid concerns there is “significant opposition” to them within the Coalition. The UK Green Building Council has released the text of a letter sent to Prime Minister David Cameron by the heads of major companies including Legal and General, Whitbread, Land Securities and Marks & Spencer on the Government’s proposed minimum energy performance standards (MEPS). It argues that commercial buildings are responsible for around one fifth of the UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions. More →

Better talent attraction and retention strategies needed as recruitment soars

Talent attraction and retention strategies needed as recruitment needs soarEmployers are increasing their permanent headcount at their fastest rate since before the recession. Consistently positive GDP results, coupled with reports that business optimism is at its highest level since 1998, has driven impressive growth across the entire professional jobs market, according to the latest data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo). It reports that the placement of professional talent increased by 29 per cent compared to the same time last year, with particularly strong growth in sectors such as accounting and finance. This mirrors plans by the Big Four accounting firms to substantially increase their graduate level recruitment this year; with KPMG and PwC, for example, both planning to hire 30 per cent more candidates than last year. Although it’s good news for the jobs market – analysts warn that managers must plan ahead to ensure they retain and attract the right talent. More →

Flexible working might help firms to deal with World Cup fever, claims ACAS

Flexible working and the World CupWhile FIFA works out whether it wants to dig itself in deeper or climb out of its own hole in addressing the World Cup bribery scandal, thoughts in the business world about this Summer’s quadrennial festival of football turn, yet again, to the matter of how to deal with it all. One of the first up with suggestions this time is the UK employment conciliation service agency ACAS which thinks the answer no longer lies in turning a blind eye to what people get up to, but instead working around it. They are urging firms to allow staff to work flexibly during the World Cup so they can watch games with minimal disruption to business. ACAS last month issued new guidance on flexible working in advance of a change in the rights of workers to request flexible working at the end of June, and is now suggesting that flexible working will help to reduce absenteeism and disruption during the tournament in Brazil which begins on June 12.

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Flexible working constrained by failure to incentivise off-peak travel, claims Government report

Could flexible working helpNew research from the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) has revealed how a simple change in the price structure of rail tickets could allow increased flexible working and better manage the current rush hour crush on public transport. The study, carried out by IFF Research, claims that two thirds of organisations could increase the scope for flexible working if the price of off-peak season tickets were reduced. The report claims that, at present, employers have little or no incentive to accommodate more flexible working but that if the cost of travel was reduced outside of peak travel times so that commuters felt a significant financial benefit, then two-thirds of the organisations that took part in the study, ‘felt that they would be able to accommodate at least some staff travelling to work avoiding the centre of the peak’.

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New tenants reflect strong demand for office accommodation on Regent Street

Sstrong demand for office accommodation on London's Regent StreetIn one of the most substantial West End lettings this year, global asset and investment manager, Tudor Capital Europe LLP is to locate its new UK headquarters to Crown Estate’s 10 New Burlington Street development. The firm will move into some 40,000 sq ft across two floors at the £250m redevelopment, which forms part of Regent Street’s £1 billion regeneration. This follows on from a 30,000 sq ft letting to Ares Management at the same building. The addition of Tudor Capital Europe to the line-up at 10 New Burlington Street means the office element (around 100,000 sq ft) is 75 per cent let at completion. The move illustrates strong demand for office accommodation on Regent Street, where office take up rose by 90 per cent in the 12 months prior to March 2014, compared to an increase of 31 per cent over the wider West End in the same time span. More →

Money alone isn’t enough to attract and hold on to Gen Y employees

Gen YThe retention of Gen Y employees is key for all organisations. No organisation wants to invest in their next generation of management only to find that they leave, and someone new needs to be trained. But the 20-30 year old workers of Gen Y exhibit a new-found job mobility. Which makes for a ticking time-bomb of potential cost and disruption to their employers. The iOpener Institute has gathered and studied questionnaire responses from over 30,000 professionals across the world, gaining insights into how employers can retain their Gen Y talent. The research clearly shows that while pay and financial rewards are important to Gen Y (i.e. they are not prepared to be under-paid for their work), there is no significant correlation between increased levels of pay and greater talent retention.

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Goodbye 9-5: flexible working practices help retain and attract staff

flexible working connectors

Tech savvy connectors @ Oliver Preston

New ways of working are being fuelled by employees desire to take greater control of their lives. Over three-quarters (77%) of respondents in a survey by YouGov for Virgin Media Business said that remote working helps them address their work-life balance and almost four in five employees (78%) believe companies today need to offer it to attract and retain staff. As part of the research, psychologist Professor Cary Cooper reveals remote workers fall into four groups which range from ‘beginners’ to tech savvy ‘connectors.’ He stresses the need for employers to not only kit out their employees with the technology they need to work remotely, but also to educate them on flexible working best practice tips and guidelines because: “Ultimately this will help them ensure there is consistency across employees’ standard of work regardless of location, and will also ensure they remain as productive as possible.” More →

A third of UK workers would welcome a digital assistant to free up their time

digital assistant

A vision of the present. © Pixar Studios

In the 2008 Pixar film WALL-E, humans have fled the planet they have destroyed in an orgy of garbage-generating mass-consumerism and been reduced to morbidly obese, sedentary lumps living vicariously through screens and whose every need is catered for by the machines around them. Well, they say the best science fiction is really about the present day and sure enough, it appears that many of us are perfectly happy with the idea of suckling at the galvanised teat of a robot overlord. A new survey carried out by ClickSoftware  claims that a third of UK employees would welcome the idea of having a personal digital assistant to help them carry out everyday tasks. Over half (58 percent) hope that intelligent apps will take on at least a tenth of their workload in the future, especially those tasks considered mundane and repetitive such as administration, work scheduling and planning journeys.

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Flexible working just one factor that can lift the workplace blues

Flexible working happinessNew research commissioned by office supplies firm Viking claims that many people working for small businesses are unhappy, stressed and demotivated in the workplace for much of the time but that their misery can be alleviated with flexible working, training, social events and generally a bit more information and attention from their employers. The research found that a third of the employees surveyed, all of whom work for firms with fewer than 50 employees, claim to be unhappy for more than half of their time at work, with 42 per cent saying they are also stressed and unmotivated. The respondents claim that these issues could be resolved with more flexible working, social events, personal development and business updates. With workers rating such displays of affection more highly than a pay rise, a spend of less than £500 per employee each year on the things they cherish could make them more happy and motivated.

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Workplace design and management of TMT sector aped by other firms

Male midlifeThe publication of a report last week by the British Council for Offices highlights the wider impact of workplace design trends and commercial property arrangements  in the increasingly important Technology, Media and Telecoms (TMT) sector. Not least it suggests that they are having a transformational influence on the way firms in other sectors approach leases, workplace design and the changing nature of work. It is no coincidence that the TMT sector is the one most commonly associated with the employment of the much-talked-about Gen Y demographic, nor that the business practices most commonly associated with this overly-stereotyped group are those that are having the greatest influence in the way we design and manage offices.

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