Flexible working can boost job markets

Workers across Europe and Russia believe that flexible working has a profound effect on levels of employment, with 85% claiming that it creates new jobs, keeps people in work and provides opportunities for people to get back into work. Greater flexibility is seen as a way to boost productivity and retain talented staff within organisations.

The findings come from independent research commissioned by Avaya from research consultancy Dynamic Markets. ‘Flexible Working 2009’ reflects the attitudes of more than 3,500 workers across France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia and the UK.

The belief that flexible working practices can boost job markets is widespread but most prevalent in Russia (91%), Spain (87%) and the UK (88%). On a microeconomic level, 35% of respondents think flexible workers save their employer money from not being in the office or on-site full time.

Generally people believe that flexible workers are happier (67%) and over half (51%) feel they are more productive, while almost as many (46%) think that they work harder during the time they work. UK workers in particular equate flexibility with loyalty, with 52% believing that flexible workers are more loyal.

“It would be simplistic to suggest that flexible working is a silver bullet for European countries tackling unemployment, and the faith that so many people have in it to create jobs and boost economies is surprising. However, I do believe the current downturn will encourage employers think about how to adopt a smart workforce approach, using flexibility as a practical and cost effective way of retaining talented staff who need to balance other commitments,” said Michael Bayer, president of field operations, EMEA.

While 95% of all those surveyed attributed at least one of these positive qualities – happiness, productivity and working hard – to flexible working, the key factors felt to be motivators for employers to implement it were increased productivity (59%) and the desire to keep talented workers with family commitments in work (59%). Half of those surveyed see cost benefits to the employer as a key driver, however, a significant portion (34%) think that seeing how successful schemes at other companies have been will be a factor.

“This is not just a case of those who have already embraced flexible working singing its praises – we found there is very little difference in opinion between employees who work flexibly and those who do not, in terms of how they view the benefits,” added Bayer. “There is sometimes a perception that management can be reluctant to implement flexible working practices because of trust issues. In fact it seems 55% of senior managers believe flexible-working employees are more productive and 52% think they work harder.”

Legislation may also prove to be a significant factor in the uptake of flexible working. Among those who currently do not work on a flexible basis, 61% would insist on it if flexible working rights were introduced to their country in the form of new legislation – particularly parents (69%) and those expecting their first child (76%).

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