Flexible Working – the ongoing debate

WRITTEN BY Tina Miller ON 19 April 2013

There has always been resistance to flexible working with the majority of businesses preferring to keep employees within their sights.

Earlier this year a ban on remote working at Yahoo reignited the flexible working debate.

The arguments are the same but the strength of opinion is different. With the explosion of social technologies and the ease of remote working many are anxious about losing creative impromptu moments between colleagues. Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers, feels that in a fast-moving, entrepreneurial society, we cannot afford to live without the face-to-face interaction that drives business.

However during preparation for London 2012 many companies decided to embrace flexible working as a viable option for their business. Telecommunications company O2 have moved their teams’ working week away from traditional offices.

According to employee Darren Farmer people from all areas of the company are now working away from the office at least one day a week.

In his article ‘Flexible working one year on’ he states that the biggest thing that any company looking at flexible working needs to consider is a behavioural change. I have discussed in the past the level of trust required by an employer to commit to home working. It is not just investments in technology to ensure you can still be collaborative and productive. It’s about encouraging a feeling of ownership in your employees. As Darren says ‘it’s all about output, not where you are. I know what constitutes me doing my job, and it’s up to me to make sure it’s done wherever I am’.

SMEs are more likely to encourage autonomy. They have entrusted their business dream to their staff so have developed more personal relationships. The result is a belief that the work will be produced speedily. Staff in return want to produce the best quality output possible to ensure the trust remains.
Essentially flexible working should be just that. Flexible. It doesn’t mean always working at home with no face to face interaction with colleagues or suppliers. It means working in a flexible way to benefit the business.

Increased employee motivation and reduced premises costs are beneficial. However, ultimately, the biggest benefit is the business reaching optimal quality and productivity.