Reasons to say ‘yes’ to flexibility

Jason O’Brien, Chief Operating Officer at says organisations need to get to grips with flexibility for the good of employees and business, and start saying ‘yes’.

YesSince the change in legislation last year, which gave UK workers with 26 week’s service the statutory right to request flexible working, the vast majority (55%) are still required to work in the office during designated hours. A further 44% said they weren’t allowed to work remotely at all. Flexible working has become the way forward for businesses when it comes to helping raise efficiency and reducing work-related stress. So why aren’t more businesses granting requests for flexible working? Here are four reasons why more business should be saying ‘yes’.

Enables a healthy work life balance

Work pressures are something that all employees will have experienced at some point in their careers. The constant strain of not having enough hours in the day to complete tasks, coupled with high stress-inducing scenarios such as presentations, can take its toll on physical and mental wellbeing.

An Annual Review of Clinical Psychology found that stress, depression and socioeconomic status may be playing a direct role in the development of organic coronary artery disease. As severe as this may sound, our natural reaction to stressful situations, the fight or flight response, has been shown to cause prolonged damage to tissue and lead to disease.

One in five workers are reportedly affected by work-related stress and over 11.3 million days are lost a year as a result according to Health and Safety Executive. It’s apparent that the UK has a significant work related stress problem, which needs to be tackled urgently, as it could be causing employees irreversible damage.

Unsurprisingly, a study by Shultz of 16,000 workers found that when employees have more control over their working lives their stress levels reduced and they felt more rested. Increasing workers’ freedom allows them to fit in other activities around their working day such as seeing family and friends, hobbies and exercise. When people get to do more of what they love they feel happier and more content. With employees in a better state of mind, absenteeism decreases and productivity and job satisfaction rises, which is something all businesses want to achieve.

Helps attract and retain the best staff

Cary Cooper, Professor of Work Psychology at Manchester University, explained in a motivation whitepaper by that a key factor in the future of work will be to manage a continuously variable number of employees by offering them flexibility.

As time goes by, working methods will be increasingly diverse as the needs of the people working within the organisation change. This needs to cover part-time and temporary staff, as well as meeting the needs of the older population, who will have to work longer, and the younger generation, who are starting families.

We are moving towards a more collaborative work environment characterised by flexibility, advanced technologies and optimized processes. All of this is crucial to attracting and retaining employees; while taking into consideration that the cost of replacing talented people leaving the company is often very high.

Giving staff the freedom to choose where they work, how they work and for how long is a great way to hold on to valuable people. Not everyone has the ability to work nine to five, Monday to Friday. So by allowing employees to work around their own lifestyles, a company shows that it appreciates their different needs. Similarly, when employees feel they can be trusted to work away from managerial supervision, they are encouraged to be more productive, and value the needs of the business.

With more young people entering the job market, demand has risen for employers to offer more diverse working arrangements. An O2 business survey found that one in three 18-24 year olds would prefer to work somewhere out of the office, such as a coffee shop, if their employer allowed it. Likewise, a study by Timewise found that an estimated 14.1 million people want flexibility in their hours or location, but fewer than one in ten job advertisements offer flexibility to new recruits. This study shows that there is a clear gap in the market for companies offering flexible working options, and highlights a sure way to get ahead of the competition.

Reduces operating costs

Another huge benefit for businesses in incorporating flexible working is that it can help bring down overheads. A study by Vodafone UK in 2013 found that if British businesses switched to flexible working they could save around £34bn a year. However, only a third of CEOs in the same study said they had considered it as a cost-saving exercise.

By allowing staff to work from home either part time or full time, businesses can cut back on fixed costs such as expensive office space and utility bills. Employees also get to cash in on the benefits, as they will no longer need to spend money on costly commutes to work.

Another benefit of flexible working is the environmental impact. With fewer staff commuting to the office, carbon emissions are reduced both through travel and energy bills, as well as reduction in office space and equipment.

Employees can have a family without sacrificing career ambition

A study by Santander found that two thirds of women who returned to work after having children felt that leaving to start a family had damaged their career. For both mums and dads the prospect of pricey childcare and being absent from their children for long periods of the day can be daunting. In a My Family Care study, more than one fifth of men said they would rather stay at home and look after their children than return to work. Sadly though, more than one of third of men from the same study said that they worked full time and weren’t offered any flexibility at all to work and look after their children.

Juggling a career and children can be difficult, employees shouldn’t feel they need to choose between one and the other. Flexible working enables parents to spend more time with their children, when they really need it, whilst also continuing to progress in their careers.

Jason O’Brien, Chief Operating Officer at

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