Businesses are experiencing increased profits after implementing flexible working, according to a study by Vodafone.
The mobile communications company surveyed 8,000 business professionals in 10 countries and found that 75% have introduced flexible working policies and use technology to allow their employees to work remotely.
Vodafone said it was “striking” that respondents believe flexible working has enhanced performance – 83% said productivity was up, 61% said profits increased and 58% said the policies had enhanced the organisation’s reputation.
In the UK, of the 74% of businesses with a flexible working policy in place, three quarters reported increased productivity, half said they had seen a profit boost and 57% said it improved retention.
Vodafone Group Enterprise Chief Executive Nick Jeffery said the research highlights a “profound and rapid shift in the modern workplace”.
He attributed much of the shift to technology. “Employers are telling us that flexible working boosts profits while their employees tell us they’re more productive. Central to all of this are the new technologies that are reshaping every sector, from high-speed mobile data networks and fixed-line broadband to the latest collaborative cloud services. We truly are in an era when work is what you do, not where you go.”
The survey found that 61% of respondents now use their home broadband service to access work applications and 24% use a mobile data connection via their smartphone, tablet or laptop with broadband dongle.
However, not all companies are on board, with a third saying they didn’t think flexibility would suit the culture of their organisation and 30% concerned about the potential for friction between employees. A quarter worried that work would be unfairly distributed between flexible and non-flexible employees and 22% believed flexible employees wouldn’t work as hard as their office-based peers. There were regional differences to this – for example, only 8% of UK employers were concerned about flexible employees not working as hard, while 33% in Hong Kong saw it as an issue.
Vodafone said many employers who had not adopted flexible working agreed that morale, productivity and profits could improve with its use.
It added that there are “marked differences” between age groups, with the new generation of workers instinctively adopting technologies. It said 72% of 18-24 year olds believed flexible working would improve their lives – compared with 38% of those over 55.
Tony Bailey, head of enterprise services at Vodafone UK, said flexible working is no longer regarded as something new, but as standard. “It’s something many employees, as well as new recruits, now expect therefore it’s important that businesses of all sizes offer better ways of working if they are to attract and retain the brightest talent,” he said.
This means leading by example and training employees to use tools effectively. “The study showed that a large proportion of UK employees don’t have confidence in their ability to even use tools such as emailing from a smartphone (33%) and using smartphone apps to access corporate information (51%).”
As part of its Flexibility: friend or foe? research, Vodafone has also produced a guide to working flexibly.
The countries surveyed were: Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the UK and the USA.
For more information on Vodafone’s own flexibility journey, read this recent article by UK head of enterprise services Tony Bailey.