Tag Archives: flexible working

Flexible working not popular with everybody

geek_icon_1600_wht_9297Flexible working seems to be on the increase, desired by many workers, and even welcomed by many employers.

However it seems that many Generation Y (those born between 1980s and early 1990s) employees think people who work flexibly are not as committed to their jobs as those who work from the office every day.

At least according to a survey by a company of employment solicitors.

They found that while Generation Y employees were quick to complain about discrimination they were also more likely to display hostile attitudes towards equality policies.

The report said it reinforced the reputation of these younger workers as being “awkward” and “difficult to manage“.

It does seem a paradox that these Generation Y employees, who love their technology (ideal for flexible working) and work-life balance are so disapproving.

 

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Flexible working with coffee

pajamas_figure_reading_newspaper_1600_wht_13021In the week that Brits gained the right to have flexible working after 26 weeks of employment a survey by O2 found that  half of us would rather work from a cafe.

They found the environment  more conducive to working productively than in an office.

2 in 5 of us spend more than 4 hours a week working from a coffee shop adding up to millions of hours each week and 1 in 4 of us would choose to work there if they had the option.

The smaller the company the more likely it is that they will work in this way, about a fifth compared to 1 in 7 from larger companies.

Almost 1 in 3 self-employed people use coffee shops as their base while others use their homes, trains or the local pub.

It seems more people are working away from the office but working from home does have its downsides.

 

Working from home more popular

puzzle_piece_house_outline_1600_wht_4232Fed up of that stressful commute to work or having a bad day at the office?

Avoid all that by working from home.

It’s the new status symbol – according to the Office of National Statistics.

1 in 7 of us now work from home ie 4.2 million people of which 1.5 million actually work there with the others using home as a base while working in different places.

Three-quarters of home-based workers are  classed as higher skilled compared to one half of office-based workers.

So working from one seems to be restricted to high-flyers;  1/7 are managers or senior officials, 1/3 are professionals, and 1/4 are from high-skilled trades.

Median earnings for home-workers are £13.23  an hour compared to £10.50 for other workers. A third work for other people or companies with two-thirds are self-employed and the older the worker the more likely are they to work from home.

The age difference might be due to seniority or the fact that older workers made redundant find it more difficult to get jobs and often end up working for themselves.

There are regional differences with home-based working more popular in the south-west and far less common in the north.

Better technology has made working from home more cost-effective although many bosses still don’t trust staff who work from home even though there is evidence that they put in more hours and can be more productive.

Deloitte has introduced an “agile working programme” and is inviting its 12,000 UK employees to apply to work from home or in other flexible ways.

Deloitte think it will attract and retain female staff but also improve working lives generally.

Not everyone agrees. Marissa Mayer banned Yahoo! staff from working from home when she became Chief Executive.

She said “some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussion, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo! and that starts with being physically together“.

Easy for her to say  and not doing women any favours when she built a crèche for her baby next to her office.

Is working from home more productive?

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Marissa Mayer made the news when she banned employees at Yahoo from working from home.

Recent call-centre research by Nicholas Bloom at Stanford University  found that allowing staff to work from home over a 9-month period led to happier, more productive staff, with fewer leavers.

The company originally thought that productivity would drop but that would be offset by saving money on office space and furniture. In the event the home-based staff completed 13.5% more calls than the office-based staff.

The researchers thought that 1/3 of the productivity increase was due to a quieter environment with the remainder du to the home-workers working longer hours.

The home workers started earlier and had shorter breaks and because they weren’t commuting worked until the end of the day.

Sick days also plummeted (so more like self-employed workers in that respect).

It may be that because call-centre work is more robotic and easily measured that such big benefits were found. It might be different for creative or knowledge workers. And if there is low morale people might start slacking.

So was Mayer right to ban home-working? We don’t really know what the situation was at Yahoo but it generated negative publicity when she had a nursery built next to her office with an element of the Queen Bee syndrome.

Not everyone wants to work from home. It seems that younger people, whose social life often revolves around work, are less likely to want to work from home compared with older workers who are married with established families.

In the call-centre example the home-workers self-selected so might have been more motivated to start with. Some opted to go back into the office at the end of the 9 months and these turned out to be the poorer performers.

The biggest resistance appears to come from middle management who worry about losing control of people working remotely.

Perhaps the best solution is to let people work a couple of days a week from home, especially in bad weather or as in London when they held the Olympic Games. These could be mandatory days or on a rotation.

Main source: HBR January-February 2014

Can Working from Home work?

The government is encouraging thousands of civil servants to work from home during the Olympics

(if nothing else an acknowledgement of the chaos and disruption about to be unleashed on Londoners).

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the CBI both say 2 out of 5 London employers are doing the same.

The CIPD also said that its research found that 70% of employers said that flexible working improved employee retention and motivation.

Many people, including The Mayor of London, think it’s a skiver’s charter but modern technological surveillance can track locations via GPS and even key-strokes on a computer if necessary.

Security and data protection are probably bigger issues when staff might not have password protected computers or use memory sticks that aren’t encrypted. The London Borough of Barnet was recently fined £70,000 when details of vulnerable children were stolen from an employee’s home. But that can be a problem in the workplace too as more employers use a BOYD (bring your own device) policy.

And will people get a taste for working from home? Home-working is not without its problems as I’ve posted on before.