Research by Lloyds Bank’s commercial banking arm has found that over two thirds (69%) of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) now offer flexible working and are seeing the benefits of doing so.
The most popular practices are part-time/flexi-time and home working, both of which are operated by 70% of SMEs. Also used are: training employees to do multiple roles (39%), allowing them to work from multiple locations (33%) and using freelancers and contractors (33%). Job sharing/secondment is only employed by 22% of the 1,023 SMEs questioned.
The economic downturn has not halted investment in flexible working, with 26% of SMEs that offer flexibility increasing their investment and 43% maintaining previous levels.
More than half of those offering flexible working (56%) said it improves staff morale, with 48% saying it helped them meet customer demand. Improved productivity levels were cited by 47% and 41% said they benefited from improved staff retention.
David Oldfield, managing director, SME and mid markets banking at Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Flexible working can play a crucial role in creating a more dynamic workforce and can bring huge business benefits. This research shows SMEs are catching on to the rewards of flexible working and that more businesses than ever are investing to offer opportunities to their employees.
However, 31% of SMEs do not offer flexible working. Two fifths of those (38%) said that they do not employ enough staff to do so; 28% said that their staff had not raised it as an issue; 5% said they do not have the necessary IT and support structure; and 5% said the cost of implementing would be too high.
Only 38% of those that do not offer flexibility said they felt they would benefit from doing so.
“A notable minority are still reluctant to adapt to changing employee and customer demand,” said Oldfield.