UK leads Western Europe in offering flexible working – and checking it’s safe

UK leads Western Europe in offering flexible working and checking it's safeThe inexorable rise of flexible working continues, particularly in the UK, where 64 per cent of the organizations questioned in a new poll said that they implemented flexible working more than a year ago. And despite the best efforts by some high-profile employers to roll back the trend, it is HR which is endorsing the adoption of flexible working, with 92 per cent responsible for its implementation within their organisations. Although, Germany (57%), the Netherlands (48%) and Belgium (38%) currently lag behind the UK, all the countries polled agreed that flexible working results in higher productivity, especially in England (85%). A surprising view however, was that it is the employees who are responsible for setting up their own workstation, with just UK staff likely to have any sort of ergonomic checks.

In all the countries, employers were prepared to equip their staff with the facilities required for home working, including desks, chairs and IT equipment, but only UK-based organisations were willing to make special home visits to check the quality of the workstations provided. This could be a good example for the other countries, where home visits are rarely or never made.

The International Comparative Flexible Working Survey 2013 by ergonomic consultants BakkerElkhuizen, which polled 400 HR professionals in Germany, England, The Netherlands and Belgium, found that the latter has the most companies that are currently in the middle of rolling out flexible working.

In the top 3 of most important reasons why flexible working has not yet been implemented, the same elements came up in all countries, albeit in varying order:

  1. Companies are still looking into the possibilities of flexible working;
  2. Staff are tied to a fixed place and time because of their specific duties;
  3. The organisation feels that the presence of staff is necessary.

When an organisation did not see any advantages in flexible working, they gave the reason that it is not possible for all staff to work at varying times and/or places and that they wish to treat all staff equally.

However, while 90 per cent of the HR professionals in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium and 80 per cent in the UK, think efficient and comfortable working is essential for the success of flexible working, when questioned on whether a home workstation should comply with the same requirements as a workstation at the office, the percentages in Germany, the Netherlands and Flanders were much lower.

The line of thinking appears to be, as long as one works in the office, everything has been arranged, but the home workstation is the responsibility of the employee.

To download the full results of the survey click here.