• Remote working will boost staff productivity, say HR leaders

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  • 23 Apr 2015
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Public sector employees enjoy greatest autonomy

The majority of HR directors believe giving employees greater autonomy over how they work, such as flexi-time, will bring positive business results, according to research from Robert Half UK.

The bi-annual survey of more than 200 interviews with senior HR executives showed that 60 per cent of HR directors believe the introduction of more remote working practices will boost staff productivity.  

More than half (51 per cent) of respondents said greater employee autonomy would heighten creativity, and 45 per cent said it would make employees easier to manage.

The number of UK organisations that have adopted flexible working has increased by more than a third over the past three years, according to the research. Public sector employers are leading the way, with a 47 per cent increase in remote working.

Businesses in the Midlands saw the greatest rise in worker autonomy, with 55 per cent more employers offering staff flexible working over the same period. And organisations in London and the South East were close behind with an increase of 53 per cent.

Earlier this week, The Times newspaper reported that M&C Saatchi, the PR agency, was the latest company based in the capital to get rid of almost all of it’s desktop computers in favour of “free range” working on laptops and smartphones. And the majority of the big four professional services firms have introduced hot-desking, and flexi-time working. But critics have previously claimed that the expense of office space, and a shortage of it, is behind such changes.

Phil Sheridan, managing director at Robert Half, said: “Just because employees are at their desks in the office doesn’t mean they are always working productively. Employees can work just as effectively remotely, especially now that advancements in technology have enabled us to share files, communicate with colleagues and collaborate on projects, without the added burden of a commute or distractions in the office.

“With UK businesses facing a skills shortage, companies need to consider offering a positive working environment that supports the needs of a modern workforce to attract and retain top talent,” he added.

According to a 2014 CIPD report – HR: Getting smart about agile working – 35 per cent of employees said they would like to change their working arrangements, and 43 per cent said they would most like to change the start or finish time of their working day.  

“Before implementing a flexible working initiative, companies should ensure they have a proper structure in place so that benefits for employees are balanced with business needs,” said Sheridan.

“Firms should also look at how they use flexible contracts and staff resourcing to support those who choose to work in a more traditional setting,” he added.

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  • When managed well, a flexible approach to work ensures that employees can focus on work, rather than be over-tired from long commutes, concerned about how to get domestic "fixes" completed, and manage the real work life balance people have aspired to for over a decade. The workplace has to manage the front facing areas of the business such as customer service, but with a little imaginative thinking, even those areas can have access to a more creative, simple way of working.

  • Not sure I agree with the headline "Public sector employees enjoy greatest autonomy". The article says that Public sector have had a 47 per cent increase in remote working. I was working for private sector in 2004 which was already operating remote working. Perhaps the public sector has had a recent increase in remote working because it is catching up (I work for public sector now and it is very far behind)- not because it enjoys the greatest autonomy. it could be that the autonomy was being enjoyed already a long time ago elsewhere...