The myth of flexibility

Flexible working might sound like a good idea – but most companies in the UK who currently offer it don’t seem to be doing a very good of managing the process.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Research by the Orange Future Enterprise Coalition found that employees are still desperate to do more of it – 50% of those surveyed said that the chance to work more flexibly would be a key factor in the choice of their next job. And employers are starting to recognise this: according to Orange, more and more are starting to offer this as standard practice.

The only problem is, it doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect. 45% of respondents said that working more flexibly usually meant working during free time at evenings and weekends, cutting down on leisure and family time. What’s more, people are still worried that being out of the office will cut them out of the loop, harming their chances of climbing the greasy pole.

Orange reckons that employers need to re-think how they measure effectiveness in their employees, focusing on productivity rather than accumulated hours. The person who’s always last out of the office might actually be the one who spends half his afternoon on Facebook, rather than the most diligent.

Clearly employees can’t have it both ways. If they’re allowed some flexibility during normal work hours, it doesn’t seem too unreasonable to ask them to catch up during what would ordinarily be their free time. But if nothing else, the survey demonstrates the UK still has a long way to go before it becomes comfortable with flexible working.

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