Sir Richard Branson said in a blog post last year: “Flexible working is smart working. Screw business as usual. If you trust your people to make their own decisions, they will reward you."
When a billionaire business baron like Sir Richard sees the point in flexible working – what reasons do British employers have for not considering it?
What probably makes both employers and employees sceptical about flexible working is the ridiculous myths that surround it.
We’ve drawn a list of the eight worst ones that you absolutely should not believe:
1. MYTH: Flexible working means working from home
TRUTH: That flexible working means “working from home” is probably the Worst. Myth. Ever.
Dave Coplin, Microsoft’s chief envisioning officer, dispels this misgiving in his book Business Reimagined: “Work is a thing you do, not a place you go to,” he wrote.
In the London Loves Business and Microsoft e-guide, BUSINESS ANYWHERE - The ultimate guide to flexible working, Coplin further explained:
“The basic issue with flexible working is just what is it? One of the challenges I consistently see is that when I say “flexible working”, most people hear “working from home”. And actually, flexible working is not necessarily working from home.
“Flexible working is about being able to make a choice, on any given day, about the most appropriate location for the work you’re about to do.”
2. MYTH: Flexible working hampers productivity
TRUTH: This myth cannot be further from the truth. In fact, one of the biggest benefits of flexible working is a boost in productivity.
According to research by global workspace provider Regus of 2,200 business owners and senior managers, 81% respondents found flexible working as a way of improving productivity.
Another survey by recruiters Robert Half UK of more than 200 senior HR executives found that 60% of HR directors feel remote working practices will boost staff productivity.
3. MYTH: Flexible working is only for parents
TRUTH: Until May 2014, the right to flexible working was only available to carers, or people who look after children.
The following month flexible working was extended to all employees after the government announced that remote working helps companies retain staff over a long period of time.
The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, at the time, said: “It’s not just parents and carers who can benefit from flexible working. This sensible and modern approach to work is something that can improve the lives of everyone.
“Now, thanks to this long overdue change in the law, employees of all ages will be able to ask their boss to alter the way they work, regardless of whether they have dependents or caring responsibilities.
4. MYTH: Flexible working is only for big businesses
TRUTH: No, it’s not. For years together, small businesses have let employees work remotely to cut costs and boost profits.
A survey by the Federation of Small Businesses found that four in five small firms currently offer flexible working or would consider offering it if asked.
John Allan, chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Small businesses often work in close-knit teams and are flexible by nature. Many small businesses therefore already offer flexible working and recognise the benefits of doing so, such as boosting productivity and staff morale, without the need for a right to request.”
Still not convinced? We’ve got a good example of a small business embracing flexible working.
Footwear company Vivobarefoot works with manufacturers all around the world. By working flexibly from anywhere, its global operations director Damian Peat has been able to boost productivity and make the most of market opportunities available to the business. Read all about their experience here.
5. MYTH: It’s very expensive
TRUTH: Another silly reason for the question marks around flexible working is that it’s too expensive.
Research by recruiters Robert Half found that more than 67% of respondents felt flexible working saves money as it’s cheaper than fixed-office working.
According to a study by Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), British employees could save a £3.8bn and 533 million hours a year in commuting time.
With strong flexible working tech tools like mobile devices, cloud services and video conferencing, flexible working might just turn out to be cost-effective way to run businesses for many employers.
6. MYTH: Flexible working hampers customer service
TRUTH: The idea that you need to be stuck to your office chair to serve your customers is as outdated as VCRs.
By offering flexible working, employers can help their workforce to improve customer service. How?
Some employees might prefer working outside 9am to 5pm which makes them available to customers outside traditional hours.
According to research by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) of over 1,000 organisations, 62% of managers said flexible working helped their organisation respond better to customer needs.
7. MYTH: Flexible working can disrupt work-life balance
TRUTH: Working from anywhere and anytime doesn’t mean your work-life balance will be wrecked.
In its flexible working research, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) found that employees who work flexibly often “have a greater sense of responsibility, ownership and control of their working life”.
“If a manager helps an employee to balance their work and home life this can be rewarded by increased loyalty and commitment. An employee may feel more able to focus on their work and to develop their career,” Acas said in its report.
Also, according to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, over 50% of employees report that flexible working helps them achieve a better work–life balance.
They also said that flexible working makes them healthier, more productive and reduces the amount of time that they take off sick.
8. MYTH: Flexible working will compromise business security
TRUTH: We don’t blame you for believing this myth. After all, cybercrime cost UK businesses an eye-watering £9.2bn per annum.
But if you’ve got the right technology infrastructure, you and your employees can work remotely with minimal risks to your business.
Take, Microsoft Office 365, for example. You can use its OneDrive for Business to ensure all your data is stored and shares securely.
Shared from London Loves Buisness and brought to you in partnership with Microsoft