Line managers key to flexible working in times of recession when ‘being seen’ in the office outweighs productivity

Friday, 25 November 2011

The telecommunications company O2, has published a report that looked at the future of work and flexible working. The report found that 27% of respondents felt that their performance is primarily measured by the time they spend in the office, rather than their output and the same number also said that they felt they were prevented from working flexibly by their line managers.

EFC has on many occasions stressed the importance of line managers as the gateway to policies and best practice and this is confirmed by this new report.  David Plumb, O2's general manager for enterprise suggested that senior managers and line managers had to lead by example if their organisations are to fully take advantage of the benefits of flexible working. He said: "The culture change needs to start at the top. Boards need to believe in flexible working, and it all starts with examples. Are the people on the board leading by example by holding teleconferences and altering their hours to collect their children from school?"

The report also found that:

  • 41% of office-based employees said that they felt pressure to be present and visible in the office as a result of the economic climate.
  • 54% of employees said that working flexibly helps to strike a better work/life balance.
  • 52% said that they felt working flexibly boosts productivity.
  • 31% of employees also said that they felt their employer failed to take advantage of the benefits of flexible working, such as increased productivity, reduced costs and maximising competitiveness.

Plumb added: "With so many organisations facing economic uncertainty, our research suggests large numbers of businesses are missing out on the productivity gains, improved employee and customer engagement and efficient processes that such flexible working practices can deliver. We have found that flexible working has different mindsets depending on if you are the employee or the employer, and that employees are spending more time at their desks because they believe they have to is not going to contribute to driving UK business forward."

Plumb also highlighted how, by failing to make use of flexible working, employers could be missing out on key talent. And EfC knows that there will be carers within this missing talent pool who want to combine flexible work with their caring responsibilities. Plumb added: "Generation Y is demanding this way of working. They want to use their own technology in the office and work in a pattern that suits them. And we want that talent."

The findings were published as O2 launched "Joined up people", a service designed to equip businesses to maximise the use of informations and communications technology in their business and capitalise on the positive potential that flexible working provides.

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