Flexible working cultures ‘stalling’

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Flexible working cultures are stalling and companies are not making the most of technology’s potential to improve flexible working and productivity, according to a new report by the Work Foundation.

The ‘Productivity, technology & working anywhere’ report, published today, highlights the complex and often strained relationship between productivity, technology and work. It reveals a positive link between correctly-implemented technology and workplace productivity, but suggests progress can be marred by poor business planning, a lack of innovation, outdated IT and low uptake of flexible working cultures. It shows a divide between employee and employer perceptions of flexible working and a perceived lack of support for remote working from employers.

Supported by survey responses from 1,000 professional workers and 500 managers within medium and large organisations across the UK, the research, commissioned by Citrix, warns that flexible working cultures are stalling and calls for businesses to “make best use of employees who can act as ‘intrapreneurs’ to embrace and test new innovations, not be afraid to fail and be flagbearers for the future of work”.

Findings from respondents questioned in the report reveal:

  • 24% of UK managers believe their organisation is not technologically ‘forward thinking’
  • 80% of workers who see a link between technology and productivity acknowledge the positive effect access to technology can have on their productivity levels
  • Yet, 63% of workers believe they are no more productive today than they were three years ago. 17% claim to be less industrious
  • 61% of managers believe flexible working is actively encouraged whereas only 41% of workers agree
  • 43% of workers believe flexible working is only offered for certain roles – something only 24% of managers agreed with
  • Managers say restructuring within their organisations has supported further significant moves to flexible working such as hot desking (71%) and remote working (59%), but workers affected by such developments feel there have been less opportunities for these types of flexible working (hot desking 45% and remote working 24%)
  • More generally, 71% of workers claim they are still not given the opportunity to work remotely or away from their usual workplace. Only 8% believe remote and flexible working is ‘actively encouraged’ by their organisation while 32% claim their organisation still restricts flexible working to certain job roles and levels.

Lesley Giles, Director of the Work Foundation, said: “Everyone should be able to benefit from developments in technology, working practices and feel supported and engaged to perform at their best. However, employers need to be mindful about the ways in which they integrate technology into processes and the effects this has on individuals and their roles – it is not about removing low value jobs but low value tasks, to create more good jobs, which make the best use of people.

“This needs to be combined with strategies to allow employees space and time to experiment with new ways of doing things and to learn as much from making mistakes as from what goes well. As we’ve highlighted, there is no time to waste.”

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