For some bosses the idea of flexible working is likely to conjure up images of pyjama clad employees sporadically answering emails in between re-runs of Homes Under The Hammer.
The reality of course is much different. When flexible working is implemented well, companies reap the advantages of more productive and engaged workers.
When Sam Smith founded finnCap, the largest corporate stockbroker on LSE’s AIM market, following a management buyout in 2008, she was determined to create an environment that made it easier for new mothers - and fathers - to return to work. (She also offered employees the chance to get a bit of skin in the game by purchasing shares in the company).
Eleven years later, the total market cap of finnCap’s clients has grown from £200 million to £11 billion, a result Smith attributes partly to the company’s "empowering culture."
She says that if flexible working can work in a City stockbroker, it can work anywhere. The trick is to make sure your approach to it is flexible too, which is easier said than done.
"When we established the firm, the working policies reflected the typical practices of the financial industry at the time. I was determined to change this outlook as having less flexible working practices not only creates resentment but can also reduce employees’ effectiveness and productivity.
"We interviewed our employees to see what hours they would like to work, what working models would be most appropriate and would gain the most support.
"The key to implementing flexible working successfully is tailoring it to suit the individual. It’s not one-size fits all. Some people might need to work from home one day a week, whereas others may just need to come in a bit later in the morning. Sometimes it means approving a request that we initially have some reservations about, but we usually make it work for both the individual and the company.
"Flexible working is now a common part of our internal culture and it has no doubt improved our productivity and diversity. At the time of the buy-out in 2008, just 10 per cent of our employees were women; today they make up 40 per cent. People feel like they have a greater role in decision making and don’t need to make personal sacrifices to progress in the business.
"In my experience the most common barrier preventing more businesses implementing appropriate flexible working practices is that many people still regard working from home as an excuse to do limited work. Flexible working should not be seen as part time working.
"There needs to be a greater recognition within the financial and working world broadly that flexible practices are, in particular, key to parents looking to balance work and private life, not reduce their capabilities."