HR Show: Employers told flexible working boosts productivity

Employers have been told that flexible working can help boost productivity and efficiency and attract talent at the HR Show in Manchester on Tuesday. 

Speaking in a conference session on flexible working, Peter Knowles, business development director at BT, explained to employers about the benefits of allowing staff to work remotely – an option open to 70% of BT’s 100,000 employees. 

Knowles said that allowing people to work away from the office helps retention and in particular encourages women to come back to work after having a child. 

He said this flexible option increases productivity and saves companies money on property or office space. “We have 99% of our ladies who come back after maternity leave. There’s a whole chunk of people we are not losing. [This means] we are not having to recruit and that’s all down to flexible working”, he explained. However, 

Anouska Wilson, HR consultant – business transformation, at IBM, said that some company managers find it hard to make the “cultural shift” towards flexible working. 

She suggested that flexible working trial could be conducted in the workplace to iron out any potential difficulties with the perk and to gain the confidence of management. She added that it was necessary to clearly communicate how the benefit would work in the workplace and the potential benefits it would bring such as increasing employees’ productivity.

“It’s about giving people the choice where and when they work. We have found creative types in the labs are really productive at 2am, so why not let them work at 2am”, she said. 

Knowles added that allowing employees to work remotely was more beneficial than providing greater flexibility with the hours that they worked. “To be time flexible has a lot of benefits for the individual, but few benefits for employers unless it’s built in as part of retention”, he explained.