75 per cent of companies worldwide have now introduced flexible working policies to enable employees to vary their hours and use the latest technologies to work from home or on the move according to one of the largest global surveys of its kind conducted with 8,000 employers and employees across three continents.
The survey – Flexible: friend or foe? – by Vodafone drew on responses from small and medium-sized businesses, public sector organisations and multinationals in 10 countries.
“Vodafone’s research reveals a profound and rapid shift in the modern workplace. Employers are telling us that flexible working boosts profits while their employees tell us they’re more productive.” said Vodafone Group Enterprise Chief Executive Nick Jeffery.
“Central to all of this are the new technologies that are reshaping every sector, from high-speed mobile data networks and fixed-line broadband to the latest collaborative cloud services. We truly are in an era when work is what you do, not where you go.”
Respondents stated that they believed performance had been enhanced as a result of flexible working:
– 61% of respondents said their company’s profits increased;
– 83% reported an improvement in productivity; and
– 58% believed that flexible working policies had a positive impact on their organisation’s reputation.
The rapid adoption of high-speed mobile data services, fixed-line broadband and cloud services is playing an integral role in this workplace revolution: 61% of respondents now use their home broadband service to access work applications and 24% use a mobile data connection via their smartphone, tablet or laptop with a broadband dongle.
Barriers to adoption
Vodafone’s survey also explored the reasons why 20 per cent of respondents said their organisation had not yet implemented a flexible working policy. Of those reporting that there was no such policy in place:
– 33% said they believed it would not suit the culture of their organisation;
– 30% were concerned about friction between employees working flexibly and those who did not do so;
– 25% believed that work would be unfairly distributed between flexible and non-flexible groups of employees; and
– 22% believed employees would not work as hard if allowed to adopt flexible working patterns and technologies.
While the minority of respondents without flexible working policies in place were clear on the reasons why their organisations had not yet pursued these, even within this group there was a clear sense that reversing their organisation’s position would deliver benefits:
– 55% of employers without flexible working policies in place agreed that employee morale would improve if these were to be introduced;
– 44% said they believed productivity would improve as a result;
– 30% believed profits would increase.
Country and generational differences
Vodafone’s research identified a number of striking variations between national attitudes towards flexible working. For example:
– 71% of Spanish employees surveyed use their own smartphone to work flexibly outside the workplace compared with 38% in the UK and 27% in Germany;
– Only 8% of UK employers surveyed would be concerned about employees not working as hard as a consequence of flexible working policies compared with 33% in Hong Kong;
– 52% of German employees surveyed said they were not aware of their company’s security policy regarding flexible working compared with 23% of those in India.
The survey also found marked differences between age groups in the workplace. The new generation in the workplace is instinctively adopting technologies such as cloud services, advanced messaging and video conferencing that are central to flexible working. Researchers found that 72% of 18-24 year olds believed that flexible working would improve the quality of their work. However, that proportion fell to 38% among respondents over 55.