Fighting for flexibility

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Experts in the field of flexible working give their views on what lies in store in 2014. The impact of extending the right to request flexible working is at the forefront, with a focus on mobile technology and shifting attitudes also predicted.

Jo Swinson, employment relations minister

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“Flexible working is not just good for employees, it’s good for business too. There are many ways people can work flexibly – through job-shares, compressed hours, working part-time or in shifts or working from home. Letting employees choose how they work can boost their motivation and productivity, leading to lower staff turnover and absence, and ultimately help build a stronger economy.

This is why the government is extending the right to request flexible working to all employees from April 2014. We want to remove the assumption that flexible working only benefits parents and carers, and instead allow everyone to balance better their work with their personal life.”

David Pardey, head of research and policy, Institute of Leadership and Management

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“The new Parental Leave proposals are likely to dominate discussions around flexible working, but the underlying trend towards more flexibility when and where people work will continue. There is no doubt that we can expect further developments in telecommunications to facilitate more flexible working (such as 4G and cloud computing), and a growing sense that flexible working is a ‘normal’ way of working in many organisations. Perhaps the most significant long term trend is the increase in the number of men choosing to work part time, a 20 year trend which reflects a real sea change in expectations about gender roles.”

Jonathan Chamberlain, partner, Wragge & Co

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“For some employers the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees may lead to an unintended consequence – difficulties in prioritising requests which may discourage some employers from adopting flexible working practices. Let’s hope that’s not the case.”

Andrew Millard, senior director marketing, EMEA, SaaS division, Citrix

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“We expect 2014 to be a real turning point for flexible working. In particular, more employers will consider introducing it at least one day a week. At a time of smaller bonuses and static salaries, it is one of the few benefits that doesn’t cost a lot but can make a massive difference to people’s lives.

In the latest YouGov poll for Citrix, nearly half (58%) of London commuters felt they would be more productive if they had the option of flexible working once or twice a week. As well as this, commuters felt it would give them more time to spend with family and friends in the evening, improving their work/life balance.

Rather than introducing flexible working as a full time initiative, some companies have tested the water by making it possible for employees to work away from the office one day a week using inexpensive cloud-based collaboration tools. In the BYOD era, there’s no reason to expect employees will be any less productive working away from the office than they are within it.”

Clare Kelliher, professor of work and organisation, Cranfield School of Management

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“The widening of the ‘right to request’ flexible working to all employees is to be welcomed and will enable both employers and employees to benefit from greater flexibility. In the light of this, 2014 would be a good time for employers to think carefully about how their needs for flexibility can be matched up with the preferences of employees, rather than sometimes seeing them as separate demands on their businesses.”

Karen Mattison, MBE, co-founder of Timewise

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“The mood in terms of recruitment is slowly getting more confident. Employment has just exceeded the 30 million mark and the CBI is predicting an upturn in hires by UK firms, with more flexible employment patterns at heart. This is good news, not just for people who need it, but also for the huge variety of businesses that need their talents and skills. While there is much latent potential, businesses will need high quality support as they navigate their way through this key shift. Work in 2014 is no longer a place you go to, but a thing you do.”

Sarah Jackson, chief executive, Working Families

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“2014 is a landmark year for flexibility, when every employee will have the right to request. I hope that bosses will respond by putting the old mums and babies view of flexibility behind them and embracing the new, flexible future. Flexible boss means engaged worker means business success.”

Dave Dunbar, general manager, BT Flexible Working Services

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“Next year is all about mobility and mobile devices becoming mainstream in enterprise. It’s debatable whether this will be through BYOD [bring your own device] or consumerization – where companies start to look at less traditional devices, such as iPhones, as corporate devices with corporate app stores and bespoke elements. Mobility will start to take off.

The second thing I hope is going to happen is to have much more integrated systems with e-learning, personal development and corporate objectives leading through to talent management.

It is surprising that organisations working flexibly are still considered early adopters. Hopefully we’ll see far more companies adopting flexible working, but my overall prediction is that we will be in exactly the same position this time next year.”

Main image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kwdesigns/

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Categories: Features, Trends

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