Is flexible working good for business?
As Director of Business Solutions at O2, Gavin Franks knows more than most about the benefits or otherwise of offering flexible working to employees. Here’s why he thinks it can be just as good for employers’ bottom line as it is for employees’ work-life balance.
Where are you reading this? At work, no doubt. Although, strictly speaking, being ‘at work’ these days narrows your geographical location down to, well, nowhere in particular. With advancements in connectivity catching up with (and even dictating) today’s business culture, the long-talked about ‘work anywhere’ era is well and truly upon us.
Unshackled from our desks, we’re spending increasing amounts of time working in the home office, the local coffee shop, the park. But ‘the modern way’ brings with it a couple of interesting questions too. Like ‘are the hours saved by not commuting to the office my own time or my employer’s?’ And ‘if we’re supposed to be ‘always on’ must I really be always contactable?’ In short, are the up-sides to remote working in favour of the employer or the employee?
Bottom line benefits
The fact is, both sides stand to benefit hugely from the flexibility that improved connectivity brings. But it’s vital for a company to set its stall out right at the outset – establishing clear rules of engagement early.
Even so, one tech giant made the headlines not so long ago when it banned 12,000 staff from working remotely. Which takes me back to one of my favourite subjects – that perceived barriers to flexible working are often cultural rather than practical.
Back in 2012, we put our money where our mouths were and asked 2,500 of our O2 head office employees to work remotely for a day. 88% of them said that they were at least as productive as on a normal day at the office, with 36% claiming to have been more productive.
Our people saved thousands of hours of commuting time, and many chose to spend this working. And as we’ve sustained our commitment to flexible working following the pilot, we’ve continued to reap the rewards – like saving our own business over £3m as a direct result.
Technology is crucial
Of course, the pilot would have been a failure if the technology had let everyone down. But if people have the right tools for their role, like efficient cloud connectivity and secure business apps, as well as the support and encouragement of their managers and peers, the sky’s the limit. In fact, I’m sometimes surprised how the debate on the benefits of flexible working endures, given the powerful evidence in its favour. A YouGov survey revealed that businesses are banking £2.2b in savings every week thanks to mobile technology; and saving 9.4m hours a week too.
It’s an ethos and a model available to any business – whatever its size. All you need is a shift in the way you view the working day, and the secure, reliable connectivity technology to make it happen.