A Steely attitude towards flexible working

A survey suggests Sheffield, of all places, is the UK's capital of flexible working...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Those fun-loving folk at Orange have been on ‘a quest to find the most flexible city in the UK’ – not quite up there with a semi-mythical trip to find the Holy Grail, perhaps, but we thought the results were quite interesting nonetheless. Based on a YouGov survey of 4,500 employees, it discovered that Sheffield has the most progressive set of employers in the country, with 32% offering their entire staff some kind of flexible working arrangement. Ironically, it seems the Steel City is also the most flexible city.

All in all, the survey found a pretty mixed picture on the flexible working front. The good news was that 63% of the companies surveyed had embraced the concept at least to some extent. However, in many of these cases it wasn’t available for the entire workforce, and of course the flipside of this is that more than a third offer no flexible working whatsoever. Apparently the ongoing efforts to expound its benefits (and not just by the likes of Orange, which has the vested interest of selling more telecoms equipment) are still falling on deaf ears in some parts of the country.

Apparently the worst-offending cities were Brighton and Liverpool, where just 15% of companies offer flexible working, while the East Midlands appears to be the least flexible area in the country, with only 16% of companies providing the option to their staff. At the other end of the scale, Sheffield was the best-performing city, while Welsh employees were the most likely to embrace flexibility, with 29% working remotely.

It’s possible, of course, that this generally poor showing has something to do with the recession: when times are tough, a company may be inclined to stick to tried and tested methods, even if it may make more economic sense to experiment with practices that could reduce its overheads.

Nonetheless, even in hotspots like Sheffield, the fact remains that more than two-thirds of companies are still refusing to subscribe fully to the flexible working creed. Perhaps Orange should now launch a Crusade to convert these unbending non-believers (though ideally not by force).


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