Guest blog by Linda Aiello, SVP, International Employee Success, Salesforce
It is widely known that a happy workforce is a more productive one and flexible working has a huge role to play in this. In fact, when employees are offered the choice to work from home, they are 48% more likely to rate their job satisfaction as 10/10, according to a PWC survey. In addition, CMI research has shown that around half (48%) of managers believe that flexibility makes for a more productive workplace.
Flexible working isn’t just a priority for millennials and younger workers, either – 85% of whom want to work remotely all the time – it plays a crucial role in helping older employees stay in work longer, navigating health issues or family commitments.
Modern, digital workplaces should be designed to give more people the opportunity and access to work in the style that suits them best. It is not just large organisations that need to be aware of putting the processes in place to enable flexible working – given the changing demands of the workforce, this is going to increasingly affect companies of all sizes and industries.
Taking flexible working to the next level
Earlier this month, MP Helen Whately called for flexible working to become the default for all employees, rather than it being up to individuals to request. Introducing her Flexible Working Bill in Parliament, she argued that unless employers had a sound business reason for having specific working hours, firms should introduce flexibility to every job.
Should the changes be brought into law, as the government has said it is minded to do, it will mean all UK businesses will have to allow full-time workers flexible or remote working as part of their contracts, to help ease pressures around childcare and travel commitments.
This is a hugely positive step for British workers who for a long time have required greater working flexibility to accommodate the realities of modern life. While many workers’ allotted hours are 9 to 5, as an employer we know that childcare, personal circumstances or travel pressures can create far more stress in everyday life, leading to diminished personal health and working output.
Our own research suggests that 45% of UK small business owners attribute a lack of time to having a negative impact on their or their employees’ personal health; so much so, that 31% say that they or their staff have taken leave for mental health reasons.
This is important in terms of recruitment, too. By casting your net as wide as possible and offering benefits such as flexible working, companies can attract employees who might not fit into the conventional workplace mould but still have huge potential.
Technology can bring workers together
But having the policy alone isn’t enough. Keeping employees engaged in the age of remote and flexible working depends on businesses using the right tech to overcome employee and management concerns.
Our research on mental health indicates that 40% of UK workers say their employers do offer flexible working, but that only 20% of staff are provided with the technology to support it. Proposals set out in the Flexible Working Bill should greatly boost employee requests to work from home, and businesses must be properly prepared to facilitate agile working in its various guises.
Collaboration technology, for example, can now mimic natural human interaction – and the feeling of being in an office, working face-to-face with colleagues – more closely. Apps like Chatter and Quip allow teams to collectively work on a solution to a particular problem or theme, meaning stronger collaboration and engagement for workers, regardless of where they’re based.
If workplace technology is poorly implemented, companies will face an understandable backlash from staff who will increasingly expect to exercise their power to work in ways that fit around their personal lives. Ultimately, it can leave people siloed and deteriorate company culture.
Flexibility in the digital age
It’s time for organisations to create the flexible work environment employees are looking for. A recent YouGov survey revealed 63% of employees who felt supported by their line managers praised benefits such as flexible hours.
By being flexible enough to accommodate the diverse needs of a varied workforce and implementing the right technology to enable this, organisations stand to gain from improved productivity, loyalty and a greater availability of talent.