Growing numbers of employees want to work more flexibly in order to achieve a better balance between their jobs and the rest of their lives. But while growing numbers of organisations are trying to accommodate their employees’ requests, they are doing it not out of altruism but for good business reasons. Benefits range from increased motivation, productivity and retention, to better customer service and considerable reductions in both costs and CO2.
However, many employers still resist the strong business case for flexible working. They fear that staff working from home will shirk, and that customers will lose faith if they can’t talk to whom they want exactly when and where they want. Some employers believe that a desire to work flexibly implies a lack of commitment, that it is primarily a benefit for working mothers and that it will breed resentment among those who don’t work flexibly.
But these very attitudes represent the biggest obstacle to flexible working. Other key elements include winning the buy-in of line managers by showing them how it can benefit the team, the customer and the business; communicating flexible working as a benefit for everyone, not just women; having strong policies and practices; learning to trust employees; and, crucially, monitoring output, not input.