Jason Downes

We need to change the outdated perception of flexible working

We need to change the outdated perception of flexible working
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It’s been almost two decades since the UK Government first introduced the right to request flexible working for parents and carers. Since then, a lot has changed within our working environments; from the introduction of innovative technologies right through to our daily routine. All employees now have the legal right to request flexible working arrangements, yet since 2010 the percentage of the UK workforce adopting smarter ways of working has not risen above 27 per cent.

Research has proved that flexible working arrangements contribute to a more balanced and fulfilled life and are a fantastic way to attract and motivate the best talent for employers. However, even though awareness surrounding smarter ways of working has increased, it’s clear that common misconceptions are still rife in the UK. So we broke down the most outdated views in a battle to change opinions and get more of the nation embracing flexible working.

Flexible working isn’t an option

One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to flexible working is that this option is not available to workers. The Government defines flexible working as a way of operating that suits an employee’s needs – for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home. Although the rules differ slightly in Northern Ireland, for the rest of the UK all workers have the legal right to request flexible working if they have been with the same employer for at least 26 weeks. Meeting this requirement ensures you are eligible. It is a legal requirement that employers deal with such requests in a ‘reasonable manner’, weighing up the pros and cons of the application. In fact, if an employer does not handle the request in a reasonable manner, the employee can take them to an employment tribunal. Many workers are given the impression they can’t work flexibly because some believe staff will not be fully integrated into their team if they are not physically present in the office. However, technology such as conference calls and cloud-based tools now means there is little reason to avoid adopting it.

You won’t earn as much

Often employees are hesitant to adopt flexible working because they believe it may impact their salary. If your agreement is to reduce your working hours, for example in a job-share situation, this will of course impact your pay. However, when it comes to working from home or flexible working hours, this should not alter your pay at all. You will have a pre-agreed number of hours to work and meeting this will ensure your salary remains the same.

Productivity will decrease

One of the most popular reasons why flexible working has not been incorporated into businesses across the country is down to worries concerning levels of productivity. Many employers wrongly believe productivity will decrease with staff working from home. However, research has proved the opposite. Recent data conducted by Canada Life Group Insurance found that 77 per cent of employees in the UK felt flexible working aided productivity. Furthermore, the survey found that only 17 per cent of those who do work from home are regularly affected by workplace stress, compared to 37 per cent who work in cubicles and 32 per cent of those who work in open-plan offices. Put simply, giving employees the option to work flexibly can in fact boost staff morale, aid health and wellbeing, and ultimately increase productivity.

Poor communication

Communication in a business environment is crucial. As technology has advanced so has the way in which we communicate. Now, the majority of workplace communication is done using some form of technology; whether it’s email, web meetings or conference calls. Our recent data found that over a third of millennial workers think having a phone call is the most productive way to have a discussion at work, while it was revealed that Londoners waste the equivalent of two whole days – 15 hours in total – on their emails during an average working week. Technology is enabling workers to connect from anywhere across the globe. Whether you’re working remotely from a local café or sending a quick email from the other side of the world, conversations can take place instantaneously. Documents can now be easily shared in a convenient manner, meaning in many cases communication becomes more streamlined.

The workplace has evolved and it’s time our attitude towards flexible working caught up too. Organisations who are not exploring smarter ways of working are missing a trick. Not only is it a fantastic way to boost productivity, it encourages diversity in the workplace as well as promoting health and wellbeing among employees. Research has found that three-quarters of employees in the UK favour a job that gives them the option of flexible work schedules, reflecting the shift in demand among workers. Now is the time to adapt and evolve to remain competitive and ultimately help to facilitate more productive workplaces across the country.

Jason Downes is MD of PowWowNow