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According to a study conducted by O2, only 23% of workers are taking advantage of the government’s flexible working legislation, so what is holding people back?

The government announced new legislation surrounding flexible working practices last June, meaning any employee has the right to request to work from home or operate on an agile basis. As the latest technologies become more accessible, workers see flexibility as a necessary perk to the job. Intel’s Head of Business Marketing Stuart Dommett found that by enabling people to work differently, people think differently and bring new ideas, assets and skills to the job.

However what doesn’t add up is that despite 54% of employees in the UK being aware of the new rules, only just over half of these are able to benefit from working flexibility. But this isn’t out of choice; according to the 2016 Job Exodus trends report, 34% of workers would prefer a flexible approach to working than they would a 3% pay rise. Through providing supporting technology, businesses would save money in the long run by offering new ways of working as an alternative incentive in reviews or bonus schemes.

This information isn’t that striking though. An office based environment does provide a platform for knowledge sharing and interaction, however advancements in technology and societal culture have proven that this approach isn’t always conducive to productivity and overall job satisfaction. The Cloud for example enables instant access to information wherever you are in the world, and with smartphone technology becoming a staple asset for most people, the office desk culture is being challenged.

So what is stopping people from reaping the benefits of flexible working?

It isn’t the technology itself in question, but the lack of it. One of the main barriers employees face is that their employers don’t possess the technical acumen to appreciate advances in IT. This stems from the widespread belief that with transformation comes disruption. A 2014 McKinsey study found that very few senior executives could say that organisational transformations had succeeded – only 26%.

But an organisation that is focused on continual improvement, with strategies in place that allow for adoption of better ways of working, means they double their chances of sustaining improvements after any organisational change.

Another technological factor is that IT professionals are said to spend 70% of their time purely maintaining systems. Without having sufficient time to create an IT strategy that brings in value – monetary, productivity, job satisfaction – means your business will be controlled by the existing capabilities of your IT and not the other way round.

With flexible working comes a mutual trust and understanding that the employee will remain responsible and keep output levels the same when choosing their own working model. However businesses are still struggling to empower employees with the choice of how they work largely based around concerns over the quality of output when not within the office.

Vodafone UK’s Enterprise Director, Phil Mottram spoke of the necessity to equip employees with the tools that enable them to perform better, wherever and using whatever device. Even by leveraging the mobile economy, which is expected to help businesses more than any other technology in the next 5 years, could add a further value of 3-7% of workforce cost and increase sales uplift by 11%.

The benefits for your business can somewhat outweigh the benefits for employees, purely because if you invest more in your people, you get more out of them. Also, with 4 out of 10 employees willing to leave their jobs in favour of a company that offers the right technology, it’s becoming an impending decision that all businesses must make sooner rather than later.

To summarise, investing in the latest technologies to enable flexible working patterns will

  • Create an optimised workforce that can better meet demands
  • Make attracting and retaining talent less of a challenge
  • Increase productivity by up to 56%
  • Provide the opportunity to reduce office space and in turn business costs
  • Create a ‘change-ready’ business that’s highly adaptable

To discover more on how an agile workforce can improve your business, download a copy of our guide ‘Enabling Organisational Agility’ HERE which gives advice on how to make flexibility happen and the overall value it brings.

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