UK businesses can save up to £8.1bn by implementing flexible working
The nature of work is changing: there is a perceptible shift in the way we work that not only benefits people but also the businesses for which they work. In a recent Vodafone study, 72% employees reported that flexible working improves their work-life balance and 75% employees said it boosts their job satisfaction.
June 2014 will see the first ever legislation for employers on flexible working for all staff and 86% of staff want it. The good news for businesses is that research shows by implementing flexible working, businesses across the UK can save up to £8.1bn. These savings come from a combination of productivity increases, cost savings and operational efficiencies.
The big question for most businesses will no longer be, “do I implement flexible working?”. They are now going to ask, “how do I implement flexible working in a way that won’t disrupt or negatively impact my business?”
For Graham Payne, managing director at the Land Rover parts distributor, Bearmach, equipping his staff with mobile phones has drastically improved the quality of responsiveness for customers.
“You can be contacted from anywhere in the world with the same number. It just gives flexibility that we didn’t have before,” he says.
And providing employees with company phones makes Bearmach a more attractive employer too. Recent research by Vodafone found that 85% of managers think people expect greater flexibility, while almost nine in 10 bosses are experiencing a demand from staff to supply remote working technologies.
Why? Because people love working flexibly.
Vodafone’s research found that three quarters of people equipped with the tools to work flexibly have enjoyed increased job satisfaction and a better work/life balance. While 70% of employers claim that implementing remote working options has been beneficial to their business.
Here are seven simple steps to get your staff working flexibly:
1. Plan your flexible strategy
Do your research. There are plenty of online flexible working guides, websites and articles that will help get to grips of the available technology out there.
Frances Quigg, Head of Vodafone Better Ways of Working, says businesses should not buy technology for technology’s sake.
“You should think about what your staff need to do and what your business needs are,” she says.
“Focus on the ‘pain points’ in the business and address these first. For example, many businesses believe that allowing employees to bring their own devices (BYOD) is a cost-effective solution. However, BYOD is only one of a range of device options that could help a business. Selecting the right device to do whatever you need to do helps to realise the cost savings and productivity increases more quickly.
“For some businesses selecting a ruggedized device can work out 17% cheaper over the lifetime of the device than choosing a consumer device.”
2. Assess the costs
Implementing new technologies will come at a cost – but that cost should be outweighed by the long-term savings you’ll make from working more effectively.
Quigg points out that any business embarking on implementing new technology, need to calculate the baseline of existing costs so you can measure what the gains are likely to be and when implementation is complete, what the gains actually are. Doing a Pilot Study is often an easy first step to help with assessing costs and any potential Return on Investment.
3. Train your staff
Once you’ve determined which products will work best for your business, make sure your employees know to use them to maximum effect. And it’s not just about training them to use the technology, to get the best out of your investment, you also need to ensure they know what they should be using it for as well. You also need to talk to them about any changes required to existing manual processes.
4. Ditch the switch(board)
Do you like being put on hold? How about calling at one minute past five to get an answering machine? Perhaps you love being passed between five different people only to be told the person you need is out of office. Thought not. By ditching the switchboard and streamlining your landline with your mobile your customers can get hold of you and your team wherever you are.
Richard Smith is the managing director of Aspens Concepts, a furniture fitting company. He uses Vodafone’s One Net Business product to integrate his mobile phone and landline.
“Now I just give out an office based number so customers can access my landline and mobile,” says Smith. “70% of our employees are mobile – they’re either managers, client liaison or out on site working. The Vodafone One Net system is integrating the whole business.”
5. Start instant messaging
Whether it’s via iChat, Skype, Gmail or WhatsApp – instant messaging is a faster and better way to quickly, interactively communicate and bounce around ideas. Incredibly, despite generations X and Y growing up tapping away madly on phones and keyboards, the business world is still incredibly slow to adopt this seemingly obvious technology.
Think about it. You want to ask Jason in sales if he can make it to your Monday morning briefing. Do it via traditional email (yes, email is now traditional!) and there are five or six steps involved. Open email, write email, write subject line, send email, wait for Jason to sift through his emails until he gets to yours and reply. Do it on an instant messaging platform and the process is… instant! Or perhaps you’re on a call with a client and need to cross reference something with a colleague – or sound out an idea before you suggest it to the client – a messenger platform is perfect for this interaction.
Quigg says, “Some instant messaging systems can be used to show availability or ‘presence’ which is useful for managers and employees alike to build and maintain a sense of community even when people are not physically co-located.
“Lack of daily interaction with colleagues is often quoted by staff as being a big concern, by giving staff the right tools to collaborate and interact on a daily basis, reduces this fear considerably.”
6. Work is what you do, not where you are
Sometimes it’s just not very practical for everyone to meet together for every meeting all the time, and if you have a business in which a lot of your staff are visiting customers or on customer sites, it’s not very cost-effective either. And Skype – alongside other video conferencing software – makes virtual meetings easy and highly productive.
For West Berkshire Council, finding an alternative to the traditional office model of working became essential – after the council realised that some of its staff were travelling up to 50 miles to meet residents and partner organisations. Meanwhile their desks – which cost up to £15,000 a year to maintain – were being left vacant up to 70% of the time.
Naturally, the employer wanted to reduce floor space and find ways to improve workers’ job satisfaction by reducing their commutes. To figure out the best way of doing this, the council brought in consultants from Vodafone Enterprise Services who shadowed employees and established day-in-the-life scenarios. Once the consultants had understood fully how the council worked – and what the working needs of its staff were – they introduced tailored technology pac
Since then property costs have fallen, with a 40% reduction on floor space and commuter miles are expected to drop by 30%. Nick Carter, chief executive of West Berkshire Council, summarises it neatly: “Our vision was to use time and space more effectively, maximise the use of technology, and gain threefold benefits: for staff, the organisation and the people of West Berkshire.”
7. Keep track of your increased productivity
With new apps for scheduling and monitoring workers being developed, there’s no reason why you should lose track of how well your employees are performing and when required, knowing where they are. Lone Worker protection tools are readily available to ensure that your staff is safe and continue to be safe even when in potentially dangerous situations. Special tools designed to help managers measure employees’ productivity and outputs means the impact of flexible working is more easy and straightforward to evaluate.
So, what are you waiting for?
If you are interested to find out more about how your business could become more flexible, or for more information on this topic, please call 0845 084 0157
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