Since 30th June 2014, every employee within the UK has been given the right to request the ability to work flexibly, with employers being required to explore the reasons for the request and decide on whether this move will provide benefits for the organisation.
The rise in people working from home has steadily increased over the last 16 years, from 1.3million in 1998 to 4.2 million in 2014, with more than a third working as an employee of an organisation, and the rest as self employed or as part of a family business. This number of homeworkers is on the increase, and is expected to continue to rise, especially now this right to request flexible work means more employers will be made aware of the possibilities, benefits and positive aspects of flexible working, from the ground up.
So why are more people working from home?
People are realising that work should not be defined by where you are, but by what you do. It is easier than ever to be able to carry out your job from any place you choose, and this is keeping staff happier, therefore more constructive & more engaged with the task at hand. The rise in flexible working is also contributed to by:
- Employers needing to reduce overheads such as rent & bills – flexible working reduces office space
- Rising costs of commuting
- Staff recognising the successes & benefits of home working for their families, health and pockets
- Employers recognising the successes & benefits of home working such as widening the recruitment pool, increased productivity due to loyalty & fewer interruptions, and minimising the damage of occurrences such as bad weather or travel disruptions.
- Technology such as collaboration tools, making it easy for many tasks to be performed from anywhere
- Technology such as video conferencing, making it easier for employees to stay connected with the team
However many organisations are worried that homeworkers will not be supervised and therefore are less likely to complete their jobs, and are not thought of as much of an important member of the team as office based workers are. Employees will not feel or be included in team discussions, personal development can be stalled, and many may not put themselves forwards for opportunities when they arise.
How can Employers overcome these Flexible Working concerns?
Although many organisations may share the concerns that staff may not be suitably managed, communicated with, or feel part of the team if they are not office based, these concerns are found to be largely cultural – changing the traditional attitude and stigma attached to flexible workers is much more difficult than actually providing for a flexible workforce. The fact that organisations have historically measured performance in terms of time & hours, rather than outputs and outcomes is one of the leading factors of businesses struggling to manage the flexible working requests.
However, there are many forward thinking organisations who have rolled out solutions to effectively manage & monitor staff, and ensure that every employee is a fully functioning and important part of the team, whether they are working from the office, at home or on-the-road. A key example of how an efficient & cost effective solution has been rolled out is within Ernst & Young:
Flexible Working at Ernst & Young
Ernst & Young, a multinational professional services firm in London, supports both formal and informal flexible working hours, and has rolled out a number of programmes that allows them to grow successfully through flexible working. They have recognised a direct link between their business performance and people engagement due to flexibility in the organisation.
“Flexibility isn’t about working less or working more, but about having greater control over how to get your work done more effectively”
By identifying the desired behaviours required to be an effective flexible worker and how to manage flexible teams, Ernst & Young have put a number of tools in place – new policies, training & online information pools – to help employees make the most out of flexible working.
Workspaces have been adapted, and new technologies such as video conferencing, IM and collaboration tools are ensuring everyone is connected together, ensuring face-to-face discussions can take place between every team member, more efficient team work can take place without the need for hours of travel to the same location, and team members are happier & more comfortable in their roles.
And the figures add up too – Ernst & Young have saved £500k this financial year through reduced travel, and saved £3.6 million in reduced real estate costs. They have also anticipated up to a 4% productivity increase throughout the organisation due to these changes.
“In my business, it would be ridiculous to have a nine to five environment because, commercially, that’s not how it works. You need people who are capable of taking a phone call from the Americans at 9:00 p.m., or able to take a call from the Australians at 6:00 a.m. And that requires a degree of flexibility — on both sides.”
Now, for Ernst & Young, flexible working has allows for creating higher performing teams who are able to provide a better service to customers and clients, and has greatly improved the bottom line by significantly reducing travel costs, real estate, and, through improved technology use, reduced recruitment & increased productivity. You can read the full Ernst & Young Customer Story here.
Are you an organisation looking at the possibilities of flexible working for your employees? What are you concerns relating to a flexible workforce? Or are you a flexible worker who’s business has adapted to the new flexible working legislations? For more discussions, join our “UK Homeworkers & Remote working professionals” group on LinkedIn, or discuss your thoughts with us here!