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Larger companies lead the way on flexible work

Research shows employers cautiously advancing towards more flexible work


Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are lagging behind in the adoption of flexible working patterns and technologies, according to research from Citrix Online.  Research carried out in mid-2007 found that:

  • 90% of companies say they offer some kind of flexible working options
  • 78% allow staff to take days off at short notice
  • 64% of companies allow variable start and finishing times
  • 40% of SMBs allow staff to work from home compared to 76% of large companies
  • 11% of small businesses operate job sharing schemes, compared to 43% of larger companies
  • Only 1 in 4 companies offer remote access to internal systems so that employees can work from home as if they were in the office.

The findings are based on interviews with over 200 HR Directors or, in the case of smaller firms with no dedicated HR role, managing directors.

According to Simon Presswell, Managing Director EMEA of Citrix Online:

"The most surprising finding of this research is that SMBs, who often have greater operational flexibility than their corporate competitors, are failing to seize the opportunity offered by flexible working.

"Given the importance of flexible working practices in attracting and retaining the best talent, SMBs are in danger of missing out on the most skilled professionals, many of whom are parents and are increasingly demanding work-life balance. The tide is changing in favour of flexible working, with increasing parliamentary support for flexible rules to be extended to all parents with children under the age of 18."

Remote collaboration and personal empowerment

Simon Presswell is a strong advocate of flexible working, and spelt out the personal benefits he has found.  He told Flexibility he had done his years of 'commuting like a zombie'.  Now he can take the kids to school, work from home, and be available to pick them up from school at the end of the day.  He feels he is more productive, more flexible, and also works longer hours. "I would happily trade an unproductive hour commuting to work for half an hour" he said.  "What's happening when you work like this is that there's a shift in the balance of power towards the employee, who has more control over hour they use their time."

Simon also singled out the absurdity of spending hours in travel for a single meeting that might last only 2 or 3 hours.  Using collaborative technologies individuals and organisations can reduce their carbon footprint, utilise their time better and be more productive.

There are many advantages for smaller businesses in going down this route, according to Simon.

" By deploying collaborative tools smaller companies can punch above their weight.  They make it possible to expand the company without expanding the office, and are ideal for managing geographically distributed teams.  We've seen a steep increase in users of GoToMyPC, our software service which facilitates home working by giving employees remote access to their office desktop.  All the same, for many companies there's a long way to go."

The research found, though, that equipping employees to work remotely often means providing laptops or mobile phones, rather than giving them the collaborative tools to access all their office systems.

Because there's an option doesn't mean people are allowed to do it

The figures in the Citrix Online research are the headlines, and underneath the headlines there's another story to tell.  It's the same for research from the CIPD and Work-Life Balance Employer surveys.  Just because a flexible work option is available in the company doesn't mean that the uptake of any option is large.  Flexible work is often treated with caution in practice, and according to Simon is often "directly or indirectly prevented by line managers".

The answer is to take a closer look at what the more progressive companies are doing.  "Many larger banks, for example, are using collaborative and remote working tools both as a business continuity option and a way to promote diversity in their workforce."

Other recent research by Citrix Online has highlighted the importance of flexible work in enabling mothers of young children to return to work.

"A company that supports women in maternity leave and encourages them to work flexibly upon returning to work will benefit from a more highly motivated and loyal staff, with lower levels of absenteeism.  A recent study published by The Women and Work Commission asserts that if women’s participation in the labour market is increased, it could be worth up to £23 billion, or 2.0%, of GDP."

While larger businesses are adapting to the new climate of 'family friendly' legislation, the research shows that smaller businesses are more likely to be cautious and fear the new regulations will prove costly. 

The challenge is to introduce practical forms flexibility that will enable all companies to recruit and retain the best staff, and empower them to be more productive.

 

 

Some way to go to overcome distance

Research from Citrix Online shows that It's an increasingly flexible world - but smaller businesses need to play catch-up.

A mixed picture emerges from research this year into how companies are developing flexible work options.

We look at the findings and talk to Citrix Online Managing Director EMEA Simon Presswell.

Further information at www.citrixonline.com

 

 

 

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