While Wiltshire workers toil in sweltering offices this week, a new report suggests UK businesses could enjoy cost reductions and productivity gains running up to £8.1bn – or 0.5 percent of GDP – by optimising their approach to flexible working.
The Flex Factor, based on a national survey of 2,828 employees and employers, finds that employees estimate they could gain on average five productive hours per week - for instance from commuting - through better ways of working, which equates to around £4,200 per employee per year.
The survey, published by think tank the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and Vodafone, suggests better ways of working are a key driver of productivity, performance and organisational innovation as well as employee satisfaction and wellbeing.
While the majority (77 percent), of UK employees work in organisations that offer some kind of flexible working, more than one in ten who want to work flexibly aren’t being offered it, or don’t know they can ask for it.
Sixty four percent of those with experience of flexible working say it has enhanced their job satisfaction, suggesting that personal and performance benefits are linked.
Jeroen Hoencamp, enterprise director at Vodafone UK, said: "The traditional workplace is dead and British business needs to adopt a new mind-set.
“Flexible working isn't just working from home and these findings reveal that, with an optimised approach, businesses can overcome any downsides and greatly increase efficiency and productivity, as well as boost their bottom line."
Julian Thompson, director of enterprise at the RSA, said: "Our findings show that there is no one size fits all approach, and that there are costs to be considered. But enabling people to work flexibly can make a significant difference to our economic and social prosperity, both now and in the future.
"Our report aims to capture some of the value better ways of working can bring at all levels of the economy. It's got to be something that organisations and employees develop together as part of a strategy to increase the value of their work."
"Our findings show that there is no 'one size fits all' approach, and that there are costs to be considered. But enabling people to work flexibly can make a significant difference to our economic and social prosperity, both now and in the future."
The Flex Factor highlights some of the costs and downsides associated with flexible working, but also the real benefits, not just to the organisational bottom line, but also in terms of wider society and even the environment.
The research finds that flexible working is linked to better use of employee skills, innovation and personal productivity. By harnessing this potential our economy could become more competitive, innovative and effective.
Download the report at www.thersa.org/action-research-centre/enterprise-and-design/enterprise/work/the-flex-factor