The excuses are endless. But research just published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) may just dramatically change this way of thinking.
The findings show that smaller firms can, in fact, implement flexible working arrangements better and with less bureaucracy than large firms – completely contrary to the perception that only large firms can manage flexible working successfully.
The Flexible Working: Good Business report, based on interviews with managers and staff at small firms across the country, shows a clear business case for flexible working in both small and large organisations. The research reveals that, in addition to the impact on firms’ bottom line, flexibility can help reduce the stress many employees feel when they try to balance the demands of home and working life. And firms can also benefit from the positive impact of flexible working on their reputation as a responsible employer.
Geoff Armstrong, CIPD director-general, says: “Despite misplaced talk of a long-hours culture, the UK has a flexible pattern of working time that is the envy of most of our continental cousins. Our tight labour market has created intense competition for talented and motivated people, and this has been helped by the informal nature of flexible working arrangements that meet the needs of both employers and employees.
“Employees who feel able to balance their lives in and outside work are much more likely to go that extra mile as their part of the bargain. Employers benefit from high levels of employee engagement and a wider talent pool. Enlightened management of people, and particularly flexible working, can make a huge contribution to business performance.”
Of the businesses examined in the compilation of the report that had already implemented flexible working practices, the benefits were obvious and it’s apparent that cost did not seem to be an issue at all in relation to flexibility. IT, including emails and mobile phones, were used as vital mechanisms, enabling keep people in touch with the office while working from home.
The companies were firm in their belief that the positive business benefits were substantial and that flexibility paid off. Executives also stated that flexible working practices were easier to introduce as part of a common culture with shared values. Another important factor that arose in the survey was that flexible working in small companies was visible primarily in the way in which people were managed, rather than in formal employment contracts or company policies.
David Frost, BCC director-general, says: “More and more employers are offering flexible working, but not because they are required to do so by legislation. Survey evidence suggests that two in five employers offer the chance to work flexibly to employees who have no statutory right to ask for it – in many cases, to all employees.
“In April the British Chambers of Commerce published survey research, Work and life: how business is striking the right balance, which paints a vivid picture of the extent of flexibility being offered by employers. The findings indicate that businesses in many instances are working flexibly, not just offering part-time working or variable working hours, but also the opportunity to work from home.”