BE REMOTE. BE FLEXIBLE. BE SUPER PRODUCTIVE!

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It may not surprise you to know that, given the option of one or the other, most people would rather work flexibly and remotely RATHER than get a pay-rise. The number goes up even more when you ask parents or part-time carers – and, get this, research also shows that a considerable number of people in full time employment would actually take a pay CUT in order to benefit from the holy grail of flexible time and a grown-up attitude to working out of the office.

So what’s prompted this attitude? Why the sudden need to flee the office and flexi-up our working lives? The answer lies in the new options provided by our digital age and the ability to access our desktop whether we’re stuck on the M25 or sightseeing in Outer Mongolia. Across a whole range of industries, the accessible internet has given us all a glimpse of a life without the ball and chain of the (often frightful) office chair and desk. The idea of flexible working is so appealing that those looking for new employment view it as importantly as a regular salary. They’re also starting to avoid employers who don’t offer it.

But flexible time and remote working options aren’t enough in themselves. Employers, brace yourselves because your employees want more than that! Along with a flexible attitude to where they work and at what hours, your employees also require your unwavering support and your genuine, visible enthusiasm regarding the facilitation of their freedom. That means that along with the flexibility, employees expect practical support AND an authentic understanding that work and life (yes, THAT balance) doesn’t always ‘go to plan’. Once we have that golden combination, in return, employers can expect loyalty, productivity and stronger working relationships across the board. It truly is a two-way street.

“For those businesses NOT embracing this new way of working, beware!”

Excitement at the concept of the ‘future of work’ in all its forms is currently at an all-time high. Search the internet for a London convention promoting a ‘new way of working’ and you’ll find it in no time. Employees are expecting more than ever from their employers, who now face the realisation that the old-school work methodology is no longer enough. For those businesses NOT embracing this new way of working, beware! Yes, we are still seeing a disconnect between the growing number of people (think half the population) craving flexible work and the apprehensive nature of some companies still loathe to ‘give in’ to it. The fact of the matter is that there is still a stigma attached to home working – but it’s stigma rather than reality – and there are ways around it.

Need a reason to work out of the office? Not really.

Despite research showing that just over half of all employees want to work in some way flexibly or remotely at least once a week, only 34 per cent actually do! We need to ask ourselves why.

Unless we have a child, elderly parent, disability or other self-evident reason to work at home, some of us may feel our argument may seem phony or invalid. That’s not the way to look at it.

The desire for flexible working isn’t just for those who can’t do the 9-5 with ease, it’s also for those who want to maximise their time, avoid a foul commute or simply change the scenery. ‘A change is as good as a rest’ is reason enough.

Deadlines are deadlines.

The idea that people might be lazy or just lay around at home watching Jeremy Kyle shouldn’t pose a threat to employers. Yes, positive changes can always be offered to facilitate the working from home mentality, but done right, employers can actually benefit from increased productivity rather than a general failure to achieve.

If anything, today’s remote workers struggle to switch OFF from work, rather than switch ON.

The prize is mutual

Ongoing research confirms that, for the most part, both employees and employers believe in the benefits of flexible working. It won’t surprise you to know that people who enjoy a feeling of balance between their life and their work are almost five times more likely to work in a company that embraces flexi-working practices.

Unsurprisingly, virtually all employees admit they would be less stressed if they had the option to work flexibly. The more interesting number is that of employers who think those who work flexibly are just as, if not more, productive than those who work regular hours.

These results show that some employers genuinely understand the benefits reaped from offering flexible working – not only from a productivity level, but also realising that their employees will stick around longer if given freedom and integrity of movement.

Don’t ask, don’t get

If it’s not offered, the task falls to employees to ask for flexible working, but there is often a reluctance to do this. This might be for fear of a bad reaction, as a result of a company culture that isn’t supportive of flexi-working or even a potentially negative impact on their career as a result of simply posing the question.

This kind of backward thinking from the top can be harmful. Yes, there are certain businesses that require a person’s presence in the office, but often the situation needs little more than some creative thinking. Where there’s no compelling reason to have a person IN the office, it’s a no-brainer.

The ability to work from home has been around for some time thanks to the internet, but we don’t always have a living area that can accommodate our workspace. Don’t start pushing for flexibility at work until you’ve worked out the logistics.

The pressure to offer flexi-work is only going to increase

When hiring new staff, only a third of employers raise the topic of flexible working during the interview, so it’s clear we have some way to go before employers recognise the significance of the offer. This attitude clings onto a fear of having employees out of sight and feeling a subsequent loss of control.

Yes, the flexible way of work presents some challenges (particularly in what is currently a transitional period), but there’s nothing that can’t be overcome with a positive attitude, enthusiasm and effective communication skills and tools.

There’s no doubt – flexible working is only going to become even more crucial in the future. Employers who don’t provide the option to work out of the office will find more challenges in hiring and retaining staff, and may also lose out on word of mouth reputation.

So, get with the programme, and whether you’re an employer or employee (or both) make sure you’re IN.