Flexible working key to productivity boost, says report

11 December 2014 -


Almost three quarters of a million part timers would do longer hours if more bosses allowed staff to work remotely, according to a CEBR and Citrix study

Jermaine Haughton

Bosses could benefit from copious extra man-hours by allowing their staff to work from home once or twice a week, according to a new study from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) and workplace solutions provider Citrix.

The study calculated that 745,000 part-time workers would be willing to do longer hours if flexible working were more commonplace. It also concluded that a wider adoption of just one or two work-at-home days per week could save £7.1 billion per year in reduced commuting costs, along with half a billion man-hours currently spent on travel. All in all, the study said, that would benefit the UK economy to the tune of £11.5bn per year.

As the study indicates, from a management perspective, many bosses are still unsure about how flexible working would impact upon their firm’s productivity, culture and bottom line. However, it shows, opening up vacancies with a flexible-working dimension can allow bosses to attract and recruit a more diverse pool of candidates. Indeed, 68% of those currently unemployed, retired, disabled, long-term sick, carers or full-time housewives/husbands would be inclined to start working if given the opportunity to work flexibly. The potential mobilisation of those economically inactive groups would boost the UK’s gross value added (GVA) by up to £78.5bn: equivalent to 4.7% of GDP.

Furthermore, flexible working could prove to be a valuable incentive for many full-time employees, especially those with dependents, helping to strike a work-life balance and leading to healthier, happier staff. The study showed that if organisational culture throughout UK offices changed – enabling the 94% of knowledge workers who want to work from home on average two days per week to do just that – commuters would save up to £3.8bn in travel costs. Similarly, the time spent travelling to work would plummet by 533m hours per year, which would ease financial and time constraints on millions of workers.

Citrix area vice president, Northern Europe, Jacqueline de Rojas said: “Over recent years, many organisations have become firm advocates of the benefits of flexible working and this study verifies the impact such a culture can bring to the wider UK economy.

“Technology now enables us to work from anywhere, at any time. We must move on from judging workers on how long they spend at their desks, to evaluating them on the work they actually deliver. By realising that employees do not have to be in the office from nine to five, employers will reap the benefits of an even more productive, contented workforce and – as illustrated in the study – reach a new, untapped pool of talent in the process.”

Chartered Management Institute (CMI) director of strategy and external affairs Petra Wilton added: “This new report provides great evidence of the overwhelming business benefits of flexible working. Technology now makes remote working a reality for far more employees – yet it is disappointing that so many are still denied the opportunity of flexing their work arrangements. To achieve more progressive and productive workplaces, we need that step change in management cultures. Employees should be trusted and measured on outcomes as opposed to inputs. To make that change, employers need to invest in developing and training their managers to become every bit as effective with people as they are with tasks.”

Find out more about workplace wellbeing at this forthcoming CMI seminar with Professor Cary Cooper.

Image of acrobat courtesy of bluecrayola / Shutterstock.

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