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Jamie Lawrence


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News: The business case for flexible working – £34bn worth of savings


HR directors looking to make a case for flexible working may want to check out the latest research from Vodafone, revealing that the UK could save around £34bn by freeing up desk space and working flexibly.

Despite these potential savings, many UK business leaders are underestimating how much their companies can save with 65 percent insisting their business is not able to lose any desks.

Among the decision makers polled by the YouGov study, those who believed they could save desk space through flexible working estimated they were able to lose on average 46 desks. But they underestimated the potential value of these desks at £441, less than a tenth of the £5,746 average UK value.

This translates to an overall saving of £260,000 a year.

One in five of those surveyed believed their employees were firmly in favour of all having their own desk space (21 percent) and that flexible working leads employees to game the system (23 percent).

Over three-quarters of decision makers (77 percent) measure success by results rather than time spent in the office. However, only one in five (20 percent) thought they could get rid of desks through flexible working and over a third (37 percent) haven’t considered flexible working as a way of cutting costs.

Working from home is the most common form of allowed flexible working – just under half of the companies surveyed (42 percent) offered this. But despite 63 percent of business leaders saying that employees don’t need to work the traditional 9 to 5 and that flexible working leads to happier staff (62 percent), 22 percent don’t have flexible working policies in place.

Other key findings from the survey:

  • Under a fifth of businesses (18 percent) have a “hot-desking” policy
  • Just 17 percent of decision-makers cite employee reluctance to flexible working as a barrier
  • Over a third (36 percent) of decision makers believe reducing desk space wouldn’t be appropriate for their business
  • A third (33 percent) think reducing desk space would negatively impact the business

Jeroen Hoencamp, Enterprise Director at Vodafone UK said: “We need to get Britain working smarter and thinking about different ways of working. A potential saving of up to £34bn is staggering and this research reveals businesses are underestimating the savings they can make through reducing the number of desks they have. Not only that, only a fifth of businesses think there’s an opportunity to lose desks, demonstrating a lack of understanding of how working differently can cut fixed costs. New ways of working will also bring other benefits such as improved productivity, increased efficiency and a happier workforce.

“In the current economic environment it’s vital that businesses make the most of opportunities to save money while improving business performance. The desk-bound, building-based work model no longer works for every business.”

This research paints a disjointed picture of flexible working attitudes across the UK, particularly among senior leaders. HR functions looking to introduce flexible working may have to ‘start at the beginning’ and build the business case for flexible working from scratch, making sure that senior decision-makers can clearly see the benefit to the bottom line.

2 Responses

  1. Flexible Hours

    Interesting study, but naturally Vodafone will be pushing this because ite means business for them!!!!!!!!!!!

    The opportunity has been around in New Zealand for some time, with employment legislationgiving Staff the right to request flexible hours and requiring the Employer to consider.  The results of the survey in relation to reasons to not take up the opportunity are mirrored here.  Interestingly, not everyone who could easily work flexible hours and particularly from home, is keen to take up the offer.  Most cited reason I hear, is the social component of being with their workmates.  Other common reason is that working from home is not easy, requiring discipline to put aside the domestic chores and concentrate on the work.  That was my personal experience when I began working from home 10 years ago………..particularly taking the opportunity to get out on the back lawn and practice my swing to try and improve my golf score next time out.

    If the UK situation is similar to NZ, then take this Vodafone marketing m,aterial with a grain of salt………..but of course be prepared to consider the opportunities.

    Cheers.   Don Rhodes.

  2. Productivity benefits of flexible working

     I was delighted to read today that such a large organisation as Vodafone continues to embrace the benefits of flexible working. As well as the money saved on office space, there are other ways of making sure you keep your overheads as low as possible.

    For example, There is not enough focus on the productivity benefits of flexibility. For many, flexibility is the asbolute number one priority, higher even than remuneration.

    By looking at things in a different way, businesses can take on more experienced or specialist (and hence expensive) staff for less time, which is often more productive than less qualified full-time. Alternatively, they can take on part-time employees to fill gaps or interim staff to cover peaks in demand. Plus an individual who works less hours is often more productive than someone who works long days.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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