Flexible working

Flexible working is good for business, research concludes

Almost nine in 10 Scottish business leaders who offer flexible working say it has had a positive impact on their business, according to new research.

The employers surveyed reported benefits to the business including increased productivity among workers (37%) and better staff retention (40%).

Almost a third (30%) reported fewer staff were off sick, while other benefits included increased profit (17%) and better employee mental health and wellbeing (40%).

Meanwhile, a separate survey of Scottish workers found more than half (53%) work flexibly while a further fifth (19%) do not but would like to do so.

The research, conducted by YouGov for Family Friendly Working Scotland, was carried out to mark the launch of National Work Life Week which runs from October 7-11.

Nikki Slowey, co-director at Family Friendly Working Scotland, which is part of the UK work-life balance charity Working Families, said:

“Flexible working is good for business. The fact we’re hearing this from business leaders themselves proves flexibility is not a favour to employees in special circumstances, it genuinely makes good business sense.

“There’s still a huge unmet demand for flexible working and the desire for flexibility is universal across gender, age, and whether or not someone is a parent.

“We hope employers and workers are encouraged by these figures and use National Work Life Week to explore how they can incorporate more flexibility to improve work-life balance and boost the business.”

The survey of 257 Scottish business leaders found that among the 200 who offer flexible working, 87% said it has had a positive impact on their business, while half (50%) said it has had a “very positive” impact on the business overall.

Pursuit Marketing, which has headquarters in Glasgow and employs 180 people, introduced a four-day week on full pay in 2016.

Director Lorraine Gray said: “Our productivity – based on clearly defined monthly key performance indictors (KPIs) – increased by 37% at first and has now settled at 30%, even after three years.

“We don’t spend any money on recruitment now. We’ve taken on around 90 people in the last three years and it used to cost around £4,000 in agency fees to recruit a basic telemarketer, so we’ve saved a considerable sum just from recruitment.”

The survey of Scottish workers who work flexibly found they see a range of positive benefits.

More than two-thirds (69%) said flexible working has improved their work-life balance, and more than half (58%) said they are happier.

More than half (52%) said they are more productive at work and 28% said they are off sick less, while 46% said they are more loyal to their employer.

The survey of 1,008 adults, 524 of them Scottish workers, was carried out in early September with the figures weighted to represent Scottish responses.

Scottish business minister Jamie Hepburn said: “The Scottish Government is working with employers to encourage flexible, agile and inclusive workplaces that benefit all employees.”

Organisations are legally required to consider requests for flexible working from employees who have been employed for at least 26 weeks.

More than two-thirds (68%) of Scottish business leaders surveyed reported good working practices around flexible working, with 43% saying their business has a very flexible working culture and flexible working is accepted as the norm.

More than half (53%) said working from home is the most common flexible working option, while others are time away for personal appointments (48%) and informal or ad-hoc adjustments such as leaving early and working from home (41%).

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