Does Flexible Working Actually Work?

One of the trends we’ve been seeing recently is flexible working – this can range from starting an hour later to working a 4-day week. These are becoming increasingly popular, so we thought we’d have a look into whether flexible working is actually beneficial.

Firstly, why do this? The thinking behind any form of flexible working is to boost morale – a happy employee is more likely to be productive. But in a situation that involves doing the same amount of work in fewer hours, the mental benefits might be mitigated and simply lead to increased pressure rather than mental levity – having to work longer hours in order to benefit from time with the family on a Friday could just not be worth it.

Recent trials found that there was no drop in quality of work and there was a 24% boost in productivity; there was also an improvement overall in mental health and morale, but this was lessened by increased stress and pressure from doing 5 days work in 4 days.

 

So, is this a benefit or something to be avoided? Naturally everyone has a different opinion, so I asked some of the Media Contacts team what they think:

Our Office Manager Jess thinks it’s a great idea, but suggests working an extra hour and having two 30-minute breaks throughout the day as well – would this increase morale at your current company? Comment with your opinion!

We then have Naomi , who said that rather than having a whole day off, it could be better to have 90-minute breaks for a full 5-day week to both boost morale but maintain a full weeks’ work, which our current placement student Michael also agrees with.

Our new resourcer Alex thinks the whole idea has potential but only in specific industries. Any industry that relies on consumerism will struggle to implement/maintain a four-day working week, due to consumer demands and interactions. However, a well-planned five-day working week should allow enough time for out of hours rest and recovery, so he personally wouldn’t push to have it.

Finally, our MD Rupert weighs in – his view is that it doesn’t work in a service-based industry – who is going to look after someone’s customers on the day that the person is not working? It also risks pushing more work onto the person to do out of hours, further blurring the line between leisure and work and shrinking work/life balance, which is not conducive to long term mental or physical health.

The biggest problem we have in the UK workforce at the moment is that productivity growth for most businesses more or less stopped in 2008. Previously, annual productivity growth was expected to be 2% (vital for the economy and wages/standard of living going up), whereas we have now taken 11 years to achieve 2% productivity growth. This is despite people working longer hours and taking calls/emails at home as well as at work – being engaged with work almost all of their waking hours. Rupert’s view is that if people want to maximise both productivity and work/life balance, it is more about ensuring that they are achieving their targets (both official and personal targets) within standard working hours – too much time is spent being non-efficient. The standard UK worker needs to relearn how to pack more into their day and maximise efficiency.

When Rupert first became a £300K a year biller, he didn’t do any work when I left the office – smart phones didn’t exist. He also spent no more than an hour a day checking emails or going online. He’d be in the pub or home by 6pm most evenings. Cut through the electronic distractions and restore work/life balance through being more efficient, and people have plenty of time to do non-work stuff without wanting a 4-day week.

So there you have the Media Contacts view on flexible working – we’d like to know your opinion too, so please let us know: have you tried it, would you like to or do you think it’s a bad idea?

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