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firms urged to offer staff more flexi-work options

November 2001

Only a third of UK companies have flexible working policies, according to the Industrial Society.

A questionnaire answered by 516 human resource specialists drawn from the society’s membership found that just 35 per cent (180) had a flexible working policy, although a further seven per cent were planning to introduce one and nine per cent were currently writing one.

More than half (51 per cent) had no flexible working policy – the same proportion as in a survey carried out three years ago.

The society says more companies and organizations should be adopting flexi-working because it allows workers to achieve a better balance between work and home life and reduces stress and absenteeism.

‘Companies should realize that the benefits of flexible working aren’t all one way,’ said Angela Ishmael, the society’s consultant on flexible working. ‘It will deliver a healthier bottom line through productivity gains.’

The survey results, published in a report called Flexible work patterns, show that of the 137 respondents who measured the benefits of flexible working, half said flexi-working had helped staff retention, while 40 per cent said it had helped recruitment. Improvements in morale were cited by 27 per cent and increased productivity by the same percentage.

Almost two-thirds said flexi-working had increased trust, commitment and loyalty, and 44 per cent said they had reduced absenteeism. Only one per cent saw no advantages at all.

Ian Buckland of the Tomorrow’s Company think tank said flexi-working was now increasingly viewed as a CSR issue. ‘It’s been associated with human resources but it is a useful tool for encouraging diversity and improving work/life balance, which are both key CSR issues,’ he said.

The Industrial Society cites a number of companies where flexi-working has proved beneficial, including Bristol Myers Squibb, which offers three or four-day working weeks and term-time working for sales staff. Virtually all staff said this had improved relationships with partners and children and raised the quality of their work.

Nationwide Building Society, which has seven types of flexi-working arrangements, including a compressed working week in which 35 hours are worked over four days, reports that more than 90 per cent of its employees now return to work after maternity leave, compared with 60-70 per cent in comparable organizations. As a result it has saved more than £3million ($4.35m) in recruitment costs.


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