UK employers hurt worker productivity by not offering flexible working schemes

UK employers discourage productivity by not offering flexible working. Photo by Lionel Derimais/Corbis via Getty Images
UK employers discourage productivity by not offering flexible working. Photo by Lionel Derimais/Corbis via Getty Images

Companies in the UK are failing to meet modern work demands and are contributing to Britain’s productivity crisis, according to new statistics.

A survey of 2,300 full-time UK employees by communications technology business TeleWare found that just 29% of people work for companies that offer flexible working for all. This is despite the fact that roughly two in five employees — 42% of those surveyed — say work flexibility would or does make them more productive.

Flexible working allows employees to pick their own start and finish times or work from home. In the UK, all employees have the right to request flexible working after they have worked continuously at the same employer for 26 weeks. But a fifth of companies only allow those of a certain level of seniority to work flexibly, TeleWare found.

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The UK has experienced a slump in productivity growth since the 2008 financial crisis and this trend shows “no signs of slowing down” as long as employers continue to discourage productivity by not offering flexible working, according to TeleWare.

Many employers wrongly believe productivity will decrease when staff work from home. However, research by the University of Kent and Vrije University in Amsterdam examined different types of flexible working and found that people able to determine their own schedules work harder to compensate for the stigma attached to flexible working by colleagues.

Businesses keeping their employees in the office and not letting them work flexibly not only damage their employees’ productivity levels, but also impact their own ability to attract talent, TeleWare found. A quarter of all employees surveyed said they turned down a job in the past because the company did not offer flexible working as part of the package. Another third — 31% of those surveyed — said they would make that same choice.

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A Glassdoor survey released last month found that 40% of UK workers would rather have flexible work hours than a full lunch hour.

“For many employees, the line between work and their personal life often blurs. Businesses are keen on flexible working policies but have been slow to implement them due to productivity concerns. Contrary to belief, there’s significant evidence that employees work just as hard, or even harder, when working from home,” Steve Haworth, CEO at TeleWare, said.

“The UK productivity crisis is showing no signs of slowing down. The tools to support flexible working are available and come in the form of apps, for example, to help employees with their day to day job. Giving employees the option to work flexibly gives them more control over their work schedule which can boost staff morale and ultimately increase productivity.”