The right to request flexible working: one year on, has anything changed?

The office is evolving. Over the last two decades the world has become more global. Companies now operate 24 hours a day, doing business everywhere at any time. On top of this, what people want from work has undergone a sea change.

The rise of the millennials has seen a new workforce enter the market who don’t judge success in the same way as their forebears. While previous generations were far more materially and monetarily driven, the millennials look for a different type of reward from their work.

The demographic values their independence and look for fulfillment from different avenues. This has led to people no longer looking for a work-life balance – instead, they desire a work-life integration.

Millennials no longer want to juggle work on one hand and their personal life in the other. They instead want employment and enjoyment to merge together. In other words, they want the two elements to intertwine so they can be fulfilled on both counts and work on their own terms. In some senses, this has been recognised by the government, which a year ago put into law the right to request flexible working.

Finding flexibility in figures

On June 30, the act had its first anniversary, but the big question was whether or not it has been a success. The signs are not overly encouraging. In a study conducted by Censuswide, on behalf of Unify, more than a third of Britons (37%) said their companies still do not offer flexible working. This is despite 39% of people saying they would be more loyal to a business and 24% being more likely to recommend the company if they offered flexible working.

This is backed up by research from Jobvite’s Job Seeker 2015 report, which revealed that although compensation has the biggest impact on jobs seekers’ decisions, 38% and 36% of people say that work-life balance and health benefits impact their decision to take a new job.

Alongside this, Volume 3 of Unify’s New Ways to Work (NW2W) Index revealed that, out of 900 respondents, one third of managers and directors would happily leave their current workplace in favour of an employer who was more forthcoming to the ideals of providing flexible working. It also highlighted that nearly half of employees would choose flexible working over a pay raise, a massive statement.

With all this in mind, one thing is clear: people desire flexible working. With the improving condition of the job market, it is becoming harder and harder to attract and retain the top talent. The best way to achieve this and differentiate your business from others is to offer flexible working to employees.

Teaching technology

The big question though is how to achieve this. In many cases it seems easier said than done. You can imagine a CEO saying: “People want flexible working, so let’s give it to them.” In reality, it is trickier. There are two main elements of creating a truly agile workforce: culture and technology. The former is the brick of the policy, while the latter is the cement that holds it together.

Unfortunately, just giving people the tools to work flexibly does not mean they will immediately become the anywhere worker. They need to be introduced to the concept and understand their role in a differing office environment. On the one hand this sounds daunting, but if you have a workforce that is already partly mobile, it won’t be a big step.

The next leap in fostering a flexible workforce is embracing technology. This is the key to creating a truly agile employee who is able to not just work where they are, but excel. A few years ago, working remotely was fraught with difficulties. Internet connections were slow and communication was tricky. This has changed. The rise of public WiFi and 4G networks has meant that there is constant, fast and reliable access to the internet wherever someone is, making connecting a breeze.

Another element that has changed drastically is the technology itself. Many people who saw the entrance of video into the enterprise market will have less than fond memories of it. Just over a decade ago it was temperamental, rarely working and stuttering when it did. Now it’s a whole different story. Streams are smooth and communication seamless, meaning visual cues from others can be easily comprehended.

Firming the foundation

What a company needs to look for is a solid communication and collaboration platform. These systems allow employees to work wherever they are, whenever. A few years ago, this used to be expensive, but it is now both widespread and powerful. Users of this type of technology can communicate easily and work together on documents painlessly. Groups can chat quickly and important collateral can be created and edited on the go.

>See also: How to prepare for flexible working

This is incredibly important in a mobile workforce. Real-time editing and communication limits confusion and ensures that everyone is on the same page. It is also important to support how different people want to communicate. Flexible working will not succeed if businesses attempt to limit the platforms their employees can use, so they must offer compatibility across a range of devices.

By embracing flexible working, companies can bring about huge change. It can revitalise a business and assist in ensuring it reaches its full potential. There is an abundance of technology that allows individuals to work anytime and anywhere seamlessly, meaning adopting flexible working is far less daunting than previously.

Employees’ standards and demands are changing and, unless their employers keep up to date, they will look elsewhere for work.


Sourced from Trevor Connell, Unify

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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