One year since the right to request flexible working legislation was passed, Microsoft research shows employers and employees aren’t taking advantage of it
One year ago this week, the UK government passed legislation which allowed employees to work flexibly, or at least request the right to do so from their bosses.
But new research has revealed that despite a majority of workers knowing their right to request flexible working exists, uptake has been remarkably slow.
Work from home
One of the right to request flexible working’s biggest advocates is Microsoft. The firm believes that, within reason, employees should be able to work from home or from internet cafes or restaurants – and advocate that it’s the new way of working.
“Business leaders should reimagine how workers operate,” argues Microsoft’s Dave Coplin. Coplin is the Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft UK, so examining and advising on how employees should operate naturally falls under his ‘envisioning’ remit.
“According to the Office of National Statistics, productivity levels in the UK are stagnant and lower than the start of the recession in 2007. There’s never been a better time to change since there’s a risk that firms are cultivating an environment that traps staff in process and red-tape instead of giving them the opportunity to think and have the necessary head-space to be creative.
“Only 11 percent of employees feel like they have good ideas in the office, and many spend the day doing administrative orientated tasks like trying to achieve ‘inbox-zero’. Instead of automatically assuming that work can only happen in the office, employers should focus on the work at hand, where it makes the most sense to complete it and then give employees the freedom and tools to empower them to be productive anytime, anywhere,” says Coplin.
Microsoft’s research found that just over a fifth of small and medium business workers have requested flexible working as a direct result of the law. However, they are being thwarted by the fact that despite the legislation, a significant portion of British office workers are still required by employers to work from the office within designated working hours.
But the research shows high support amongst those that have taken advantage of flexible working with many pointing to benefits in their lives, in and out of work. For instance, over a third said it makes them more motivated, with a similar number also stating it makes them more productive.
The answer? Only time will tell, it would seem. But as BYOD and methods to work on the go rise exponentially, it surely won’t be too long before the office as we know it today is simply defunct.