How Flexible Working Shapes Up
Research suggests that the legendary work-life balance is still tipped in favour of the office. So what’s new?
Flexible working is big news. The government is pressing ahead with changes in HR policy to allow greater flexibility in the workplace, such as encouraging high-earning mums to share maternity leave with their partners. And with the advance of mobile technology, a growing number of businesses are allowing staff to take on more flexible working patterns too.
But is flexible working really working?
Not according to Regus. The global supplier of serviced office space recently published a report suggesting that too few employers are acting on flexible working promises. It also claims that office culture is leading to a work-life imbalance, which can be detrimental to the health and home lives of British workers.
The study, based on interviews with 3000 businesspeople in the UK, found that 34% of UK office workers are sacrificing sleep in order to juggle personal and work commitments, either by getting up too early or working late at night. Furthermore one in five working parents say they missed out on important family occasions such as birthday parties or parent’s evenings.
This is nothing new. Hardworking Brits have always juggled work, social and family commitments, and it’s not always as straightforward as we would like. Work distribution and time management are partly to blame – after all if workers are correctly managed, and if employees manage their time better in the office, surely they can leave the office on time?
In theory, yes. But as Regus points out, the UK working culture is not quite so forgiving.
The study found that 72% of respondents believe that their manager sees the “most hard-working” staff as those that arrive early and leave late. And one in five feel they have to overcompensate for time taken off for personal or family matters, rather than simply make up the hours.
Office culture is a complicated beast that’s rigid and adverse to change, and the majority of UK businesses operate with traditional working methods such as ‘line of sight’ management, where managers and teams work in close proximity. So it’s no surprise that flexible working practices are trickling through more slowly than many would like.
Despite this, it seems that the benefits of flexible working are worth the effort. According to Regus’ study, 74% of office workers feel that flexible working makes them more productive, and a massive 84% believe that staff loyalty and retention is improved when employees have a choice of work location and hours.
Steve Purdy, UK Managing Director at Regus, said: “With all the talk about flexible working, it is surprising that so many company cultures seem out of kilter with the rhetoric. They don’t seem to realise the win-win benefits that flexible working can bring on both the employee and company side.”
Purdy explained that the message is getting through, slowly, as growing numbers of Regus clients are now choosing to embrace flexible working. For instance, more employers are now allowing employees to use drop-in workspaces in locations that are close to employees’ homes, due to the positive impact this has on staff motivation and productivity.
Given the wide UK coverage of serviced offices and the high level of flexibility on offer, complete with versatile workspace that ranges from permanent offices to part-time shared space, the serviced office industry is well placed to meet growing demands of flexible working. Now it’s up to the business community to take the next step. Over to you…
Is your business bending over backwards for you? Or is flexible working an elastic term in your workplace that doesn’t quite live up to your expectations? Let us know what you think.