Flexible working has been largely billed as an option to help families and careers manage their home and work commitments, and particularly as a way for parents to continue working. Especially after Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, who recently became a mother herself, famously announced that she would ban flexible working, you would be forgiven for thinking that the benefit is all the employee’s, and it’s ultimately a bad idea for business.
Some of the UK’s biggest businesses, however, would disagree. They believe that greater flexibility in the workplace could actually benefit employers and even give the UK economy a competitive edge. It’s a win-win situation as far as the 22 founder organisations of the Agile Future Forum, including big-name companies such as BT, Tesco, and Ernst & Young, are concerned.
But this is not just hypothetical. The Agile Future Forum has facts to back up its positive claims about flexible working. They have carried out detailed research to define the value of what they call ‘workforce agility’ and written it up in a hefty report entitled, Understanding the economic benefits of workforce agility. The long and short of it? It’s good news.
The report showed that agile working leads to benefits equivalent to up to 13% of workforce costs, with potential to increase by a further 3-7%, and up to 11% increase in sales. Increased working agility can allow businesses to match fluctuations in demand for their services more effectively, increase productivity and retain high quality staff.
An obvious example is Google, who actually pride themselves on how their working options take into consideration not only the children of their employees, but also their outside interests and commitments to the community. It is this that has led to them being number one for the fourth year running in the Fortune 2013 list of 100 best companies to work for. This is great for attracting new talent, and for keeping employees happy. Happy people really do work harder, as countless studies have shown.
Nick Clegg, who has been a very vocal advocate of flexible working, estimates that 1 million women are missing from the UK workplace. That is an awful lot of talent, and an awful lot of potential. If flexible working can allow parents the freedom to continue in employment then it can only be a good thing for businesses, and a way of finally giving our workplace behaviour, riddled with inflexibility and old-fashioned presenteeism, a good shake-up.