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The business case for flexible working

It’s now widely agreed that flexible working benefits employers as much as it does their employees. Not convinced? Here’s the proof.

Now that flexible working has become more mainstream, we’re more likely to be found advising clients about how to make it happen than why they should do so. But it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder of how being flexible can benefit your business.

From finding and keeping the best people to cutting overheads, here are the reasons why forward-looking businesses are making flexible working a priority.

Business benefits of flexible working

Talent attraction

If you want to get your hands on the very best people in your industry, you need to take flexible working seriously. 87% of full-time workers either work flexibly already, or wish they could. The numbers are similar for men (84%) and women (91%). And amongst people who are not currently working, 93% want a job that includes some sort of flexibility.

But according to our latest Flexible Jobs Index, just 15% of jobs are advertised with flexible working options. This huge gap between supply and demand means that offering flexibility gives you a bigger pool of candidates to choose from. It will also give you the edge over your less flexible rivals.

Retention and motivation

Once you’ve got the best people in, and spent time and money training them, it makes sense to try and keep them. And whereas financial incentives only tend to buy short term loyalty, real flexibility is harder to come by – and so more likely to encourage people to stay.

A survey by the CIPD1 backs this theory up, with 75% of employers saying that flexible working has a positive effect on retention and 73% saying it improves staff motivation. So, if you want to hang on to your star employees, offering them flexibility is a great place to start.

Skills optimisation and progression

True flexibility isn’t a one-off negotiating tool. If you build it into every level of your organisation, you won’t just encourage your staff to stay; you’ll allow them to progress too.

By making flexible working available within senior and board roles, you’ll provide your flexible employees with a clear career pathway. This will allow your organisation to make the most of their skills and experience, rather than leaving them stuck in roles that don’t make the best of their abilities.

You’re also likely to increase the proportion of women at a senior level, which is known to bring a wider perspective into decision making, and to help close the gender pay gap.

Inclusion and diversity

The role that flexible working plays in improving female representation at senior level is also important from an inclusion perspective.

According to a report by McKinsey, gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to achieve financial returns above their industry average. Given that most companies now have a formal inclusion and diversity policy, flexibility is a useful tool in improving your gender balance.

Flexible working can also support the inclusion of older workers, by allowing them to work for longer and ease into retirement. And it can help people with disabilities or mental health issues stay in work, by making it easier to balance their job with the need to take care of their well-being [CH1] and attend medical appointments.

Productivity

It’s often assumed that flexible workers are less engaged and less productive than their full-time peers. In fact, the opposite is true.

A survey by BT in 2014 found that the productivity of flexible workers increased by 30%. And in a study of flexible workers undertaken by Cranfield University2, 97% of managers said the quantity of work improved or stayed the same and 93% said the quality of the work improved or stayed the same.

Business costs

Finally, although it’s an obvious point, it’s worth repeating: by allowing your employees to work remotely, you’re likely to have less people in the building at once.

This can allow you to reduce both your office space and your carbon footprint, and cut your business overheads significantly. For example, BT have stated that reducing their physical office space through flexibility has yielded global savings of £100 million a year.

But you don’t have to take our word for all this. Businesses agree, too: the 2015 CBI Employment Trends Report states that almost all businesses (94%) believe flexibility is vital or important to the competitiveness of the UK’s labour market and for prospects for investment and job creation. If you’re convinced of the why, and ready to start exploring the how, we’re here to help.


1 “Flexible Working Provision and Uptake”, CIPD

2 Cranfield University/Working Families 2008: “Flexible Working and Performance”

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