Flexible working seems like a no-brainer to some. As long as the work that needs doing gets done then why burden staff with rigid hours, long commutes and a fixed desk space?
Letting staff work remotely at least some of the time is certainly on the increase among British employers. A report out today by the Lancaster University's Work Foundation (commissioned by mobile working tech firm Citrix) claims that next year will be the tipping point as more than half of employers will be offering flexible working of one sort or another, a proportion it claims will rise to 70% by 2020. Some companies have even experimented witth completely ditching their office.
In some respects that’s a good thing. Almost half (44%) of 500 managers asked said they thought mobile working meant they were able to get more done and two fifths (42%) said it made them feel more trusted. Letting employees fit their work around the rest of their life also makes caring for children and dealing with other personal commitments more compatible with a career – promoting a better work-life balance and helping increase diversity.
And of course there’s the main reason many organisations are adopting flexible working: money. Fewer people in the office means you don’t need to rent as many square feet of space – and it also keeps utility bills to a minimum too.
But there’s a long way to go before we’re all working in a frictionless, mobile world. Flexible working has plenty of challenges to overcome. More than a third of managers said mobile working would lead to them working for longer, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Getting rid of fixed hours can lead to staff feeling like they have to be ‘always on’.
What’s more, 28% said it could prevent them overseeing the work of their juniors and 22% said it made them feel disconnected from their team. In the words of one anonymous panel member quoted in the study, ‘No matter what age, people have a need to connect with a team to generate a sense of purpose, to nurture self-esteem [and] to strengthen social bonds.’ So it’s probably going to be a good while before we can kiss goodbye to the office altogether.