Flexible working tops charts in Sheffield

More companies across Britain are embracing flexible working than ever before, leading to a huge shift in the UK’s working practice and the end of office life as we know it.

In a quest to find the most flexible city in the UK, the YouGov independent research of 500 businesses and 4,500 employees commissioned by Orange, found that 63% of UK businesses now offer some type of flexibility to employees.

The survey also revealed that Welsh employees were the most likely to take up the offer of flexible working with 29% working remotely. The Welsh beat off competition from the South of England, where one in four employees (25%) work flexibly, and Scotland (22%).

At the other end of the spectrum, the survey found that while a quarter of firms offer their entire workforce the ability to work flexibly, more than a third (36%) still don’t offer any flexible working options at all. The worst offender was the East Midlands, where only 16% of companies provide employees the opportunity to work flexibly.

On a city by city basis, Sheffield came out on top with 32% of its companies offering flexible working, while Brighton and Liverpool had the fewest flexible companies in the UK (15%).

Orange UK vice president of business, Paul Tollet, said: “It’s great that over half the UK working population is able to take advantage of flexible working. But the fact that over 35% of employers have yet to consider it is surprising, particularly when the benefits are well acknowledged.”

The results show that 72% of UK businesses believe flexible working boosts company morale, and more than half think it improves productivity (53%) and staff retention (58%).

When it came to flexible working tools the Orange research uncovered a disconnect between the HR and IT departments, with 50% of workers who are allowed to work flexibly reporting that they are not provided with the necessary technology to do so effectively.

Tollet said: “Flexible working doesn’t have to involve significant financial investment from business; just a clear policy to ensure it is offered fairly and a willingness to provide employees with the tools they need to get the job done. The cost of mobile solutions is decreasing, so there’s no reason for businesses to delay implementing flexible working practices and technology.”

The research found that 46% of flexible workers have been provided with a laptop, 35% a mobile phone, 29% a virtual private network (VPN), and 23% broadband, but only 11% have been given a smart phone. The findings also revealed a digital divide between male and female employees across the UK, with men 20% more likely to have access to the technology required to help them work flexibly.