How to Make Flexible Working Work for You

Flexible and part-time working have, traditionally, been seen to benefit (usually female) employees. These are work patterns which employers don’t usually like – but have to accept. They have rarely been viewed as a way of cutting costs and achieving goals.

However, new research from the Agile Future Forum (AFF) suggests that flexible working could be a win/win for some companies and their employees, with potentially huge financial benefits.

A study carried out by a consultancy that looked at the 22 founding members of AFF, found that agile working could create value equivalent to between 3% and 7% of workforce costs, and a sales uplift of up to 11%.

However, it has been suggested that flexible workforces could mean companies would be more able to match workforces to fluctuations in demand, and the quality of output could improve through multi-skilling and improved service to customers, as well as attracting and retaining high quality talent. These gains are available to businesses of all sizes although the opportunities and challenges vary for SME’s and public-sector organisations.

The gains experienced by ASS’s members ranged from huge savings on property, reduced head office costs through the use of freelancers to meet seasonal demand and a value creation equal to 13% of workforce costs in a Tesco superstore by the use of part-time working and multi-skilling practices.

AFF does not claim that achieving the benefits of agile working comes without challenges – business imperatives probably need looking at afresh, a one-size-fits-all change to working practices may not work and, frequently, top management is the biggest barrier to change. Yet, without the buy-in of senior executives, change is unlikely.

Like so many other potential workplace benefits, management needs to trust its employees and to measure outputs. This can be uncomfortably demanding for executives who might prefer to stick with work patterns they are used to even if it means failing to grasp a lucrative opportunity.

With the prospect of a potentially better than 10% gain in sales and the equivalent of a 7% reduction in workforce costs, only a foolish manager would refuse to take a look.

Source: Director Magazine December 2014 – January 2015

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