Vodafone says the spread of superfast broadband and more advanced mobile networks is fuelling a rise in flexible working policies around the world.
The operator has carried out research in ten countries – Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the UK and USA – and found three quarters of businesses and public sector organisations were letting employees work remotely and vary their hours.
Sixty-one percent of flexible workers use their own home broadband and another quarter use a mobile data connection via their smartphone, tablet or laptop dongle, highlighting how connectivity beyond the office is becoming increasingly important.
Of the organisations that have adopted flexible working, four fifths believe it has boosted productivity, 61 percent believe it has increased profits and 58 percent think it has boosted their company’s reputation.
“Employers are telling us that flexible working boosts profits while their employees tell us they’re more productive,” said Nick Jeffrey, Vodafone Group Enterprise chief executive. “Central to all of this are the new technologies that are reshaping every sector, from high-speed mobile data networks and fixed-line broadband to the latest collaborative cloud services. We truly are in an era when work is what you do, not where you go.”
However Vodafone admits barriers to adoption still exist. Of those that don’t have flexible working policies, 22 percent feared employees would not work as hard, 30 percent worried about friction between flexible workers and other workers, while a quarter believed there would be an imbalance of work between the two parties.
This is despite the fact that 55 percent believed it would be good for morale, 44 percent thought productivity would increase and 30 percent envisioned a boost in profits. A separate study by O2 last year suggested a lack of technology was part of the problem, although BT said flexible working has resulted in a 15 percent increase in cloud adoption among SMBs.
Since June 2014, any employee in the UK can request the ability to work flexibly and employees must deal with such applications in a “reasonable manner”. Requests can be rejected if there is a good reason but employers must hold a meeting with the applicant and there is an appeals process if the two parties disagree.
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