The Agile Future Forum (AFF) held their first event this week, during which its members – including some of the UK’s biggest employers – urged British companies to adopt more agile working conditions, such as home working, flexible hours and increases in part-time working. Too many companies, according to the AFF, are far too restrictive in their working practices and are consequently missing out on potential economic benefits. The UK ranks fourth out of the fifteenth most economically-developed countries in terms of the infrastructure and regulation required to facilitate flexible working.
The clarion call for more flexible working was echoed this week by Samsung’s Vice President of HR, who argued that UK employers have an obligation to ensure employees have more options when it comes to flexible working, at the same time dismissing the traditional notion that staff need to live in the same location as their work.
All of this comes after the recent amendment of the Flexible Working Regulations, extending the right to flexible working across all employees after 26 weeks service, rather than just parents with children and carers. However, what is important, and what the AFF are trying to drive home, is that, despite the amendment, the onus for allowing flexible working is with individual businesses, who will only act once they understand or can see the benefits.
According to research published by AFF, introducing agile working can save business money and improve productivity at the same time. It seems too good to be true, and yet businesses struggle to grasp the benefits because they won’t adopt flexible thinking: they are too busy looking for an ideal model or clear results to justify the change. Instead, the business needs to first accept that there is no right way to implement flexible working because the implementation is entirely dependent on the needs of the organisation. Flexible working should fit the business and requires careful planning.
However, there are a few common obstacles, including:
Systems: roadblocks can include outdated IT systems that prevent remote working. Companies wanting to adopt flexible working should consider whether their current IT system is up to the job.
Transparency: flexible working in most companies in usually a result of informal agreements between line managers and staff. Without a contractual agreement, these loose arrangements can cause resentment among other employees, as well as accusations of favouritism. Going forward, companies need to be more transparent over flexible working arrangements, including adding these agreements into contracts.
Measurement: Traditionally, businesses have tended to measure employee performance on inputs rather than outputs. These rules of evaluation need to be flipped on their head if flexible working conditions are to be a success, with businesses no longer looking at input stats, such as attendance, and focusing instead on who in producing the results.