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7 reasons to promote flexible working

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The world of work as we know it has changed. With new technology making it easier to work anywhere, anytime, the traditional 9 to 5 workday is now effectively dead. Flexibility in their work schedules is a key priority for today’s employees, helping them successfully juggle work and personal responsibilities. In fact, according to a poll conducted by Sage People, more than 80 per cent of 3,500 employees globally placed importance and value on flexible and remote working.

Respecting a work-life balance has become increasingly important. Whether it is to meet family needs, personal obligations or just to avoid rush hour – it is clear that giving employees increased control over their work schedule enhances their happiness and productivity, thereby making it good for business. With that in mind, here are seven reasons business leaders should consider embracing the benefits of flexible working.

  1. The world of work has changed

The line between work life and home life is more blurred than it was just a few years ago. For example, it’s now routine for people to demand employers facilitate virtual meetings, work from home choices, and even approve ‘duvet days’ when required, instead of requiring them to commute through the dreaded traffic every day. Furthermore, modern work responsibilities are often cross-functional and need staff to interact with more people in different time zones and areas of expertise.

In this context, constraints on how, where, and when we work should be updated to reflect this cultural shift. Businesses must be prepared to accept that the working world has changed and adapted to new norms if they want to remain relevant and truly motivate and engage employees.

  1. The war for talent is increasing

With top talent becoming more challenging to attract and retain, many industries are facing widespread skills shortages. It means in-demand employees can be more selective – and the desire for flexibility is a key factor that influences their decision on future workplaces. Hence, employers who offer flexible working will attract the best talent and are also more likely to retain these employees for longer.

  1. Flexible working boosts productivity

Workforce productivity has become a global issue. Our research shows that employees typically work only 30 hours a week, which means there’s a whole day when they’re in the office but not actually working. What’s more, most people who work a 40-hour week feel they are productive for only 3.75 days out of the 5-day working week.

Revolutionising productivity in new ways, such as giving employees the freedom to work in the manner that best suits them, could go a long way in narrowing the productivity gap and enabling businesses to get the most out of their staff.

  1. Flexible working empowers employees and shows you trust them

Our research also found that employees want to feel valued and recognised, with two-thirds (66%) of those surveyed considering this the most important aspect of their working life. For many, this aspect is more vital than office perks like games in the office or free food. Giving employees the freedom to work in ways that best suit them shows they are valued and trusted members of the team. It also empowers them to perform to a high standard and be as productive as possible.

  1. It supports employee well-being

The health and well-being of employees have become a greater priority for businesses around the world in recent years, while also being increasingly vital for employees. Over a third of employees polled (39 per cent) believe HR and people teams could do more to improve wellness at work, with initiatives such as providing fresh fruit or offering a subsidised gym membership proving popular. As cities get more crowded and people are obliged to multitask at home and work, flexible working can play a crucial role in reducing stress, making it something companies need to pay more considerable attention to.

  1. Employees want flexible working

One of the most important reasons for businesses to embrace the idea of flexi-work is simply because it’s what staff want. According to Fuze, nearly 50 per cent of employees across all generations want to be more mobile at work, with this number rising to 70 per cent for those aged 16 to 44.

Employees want to be able to pick up their kids from school, start and finish early if they have international calls first thing in the morning, or be able to head to a doctor’s appointment without fear of being perceived as slacking. Businesses would, therefore, be wise to listen to what their employees want and respond accordingly.

  1. Technology has changed

The most straightforward argument for remote working is that employees simply no longer need to be in the office to do their jobs effectively.

Most employees now have all the tools they need on their smartphones and tablets, which means they can comfortably work from anywhere – a coffee shop between meetings, their home, or any place where they can work undistracted. Cloud technology gives employees secure access to documents externally, while collaboration and communication tools enable staff to work together from opposite sides of the globe.

Isn’t it time the way we work changed to reflect these capabilities?

Ultimately, enabling flexible working should be a focus for all businesses. From aiding talent retention to creating positive workplace experiences – which is important to 92 per cent of people – the long- and short-term benefits could prove invaluable. Most importantly, giving employees flexibility will result in a happier, more engaged and more productive workplace.

In an age of continuing disruption and increasing competition, that’s not something businesses can afford to ignore.

Download Sage People’s research on what employees really want from their employers.