Research and case studies show that flexible working can increase people’s productivity.
Flexible working ensures people are on top form and have the scope to put in the best work, when it matters most.
General improvements in mood and health also means less days lost to absenteeism.
Flexible working is increasingly popular, especially for smaller companies. But one issue that is always raised is productivity. For many managers, an unsupervised employee working from home is simply too big a risk to take in terms of their efficiency. However, some big players have taken the plunge and experimented with flexible working and have seen some big rewards. Businesshr.net reports that the RAC saw gains in productivity of 8% for hours worked on a flexible policy, and BT saved £47m in terms of recruitment, sickness absence and accommodation costs – and gained a £10m from productivity gains.
So, what benefits does a flexible working policy offer in terms of people’s productivity?
Accounting for difference
Everyone is different. It’s a well-known platitude – but one that happens to be true. We vary based on our family environment, our cultural context, our genetic makeup, and our particular life experience, based on a number of factors. A flexible working environment gives more people the opportunity to work when they are at their best, by allowing them more control over when they work and when they rest.
Offering flexible working shifts allows your business to better respond to sudden increases in workload. Under certain flexible working schemes, more hours can be worked during very busy periods, in exchange for working less hours during a quiet time.
When combined with remote working, the lack of commuting also makes working later during busy times easier, as there’s no need worry about being able to get a bus or train – and people are able to relax as soon as they finish, rather than facing a commute after a long period of work. One IBM study in 2010 showed that such arrangements can lead to workers being able to clock up many more hours without it interfering with their normal lives.
Morale and Retention
Allowing some flexible working can boost morale, by giving people more autonomy and the chance to have a better work/life balance. According to a survey conducted for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), ‘workers on flexible contracts tend to be more emotionally engaged, more satisfied with their work, more likely to speak positively about their organisation and less likely to quit’ (from its flexible working factsheet).
Health and Absence
Flexible working policies have also been shown to improve people’s general health. Not only is this a good thing in itself, but also means less potential work time lost to ill-health. Companies stand to gain a lot from the reduction in hours lost to sickness.
A 2010 study by the Cochrane Library found that flexible working policies can lead to improvements in sleep quality, blood pressure, alertness and overall mental health. So not only are there likely to be less sick days, but the time worked will also be more productive, thanks to the general benefits to mental alertness and mood.
Flexible working approaches that include a lot of working from home can also help cut costs. Energy and other office resources are used by fewer people, less frequently. A smaller number of people working in the office also means less desk space is needed, means a small premises can be used, leading to some major savings in rent, or more efficient use of existing space.
Combining remote working with services such as virtual offices can also allow you to establish a presence in a new city, without the significant expense of paying for physical office space in the area.
Flexible working practices can help your staff and your business in a number of ways, increasing people’s work satisfaction and productivity, increasing your ability to respond to large workloads and project requested at short notice, and cutting costs. With more businesses realising these benefits, and as these practices becoming better supported by government policy initiatives, it is likely that this will soon become the standard for most businesses.