Microsoft carried out research to explore what the response had been like to the changes regarding flexible working, finding that uptake had been slow.
Over a fifth of SME workers have requested flexible working as a direct result of the law, but are being restricted by the fact that many UK office workers (55 per cent) are still required to work from the office within designated working hours. Some 44 per cent also said it wasn’t possible to work remotely under any circumstances.
The tech company did though find “high support” among those who had been able to take advantage of flexible working. Over a third said it had made them more motivated and 36 per cent also found it had made them more productive, while 52 per cent had seen an improved work/life balance as a result of their changed working pattern.
Ipsos Mori and OnePoll carried the two surveys of more than 1,000 UK SME employees, which found that over half of the respondents were aware that the legislation existed though uptake had been gradual.
For those who have been able to utilise flexible working, the majority found it had been a positive change. Guy Blaskey, founder of dog food shop Pooch & Mutt, said that since his business embraced flexible working, it had been a real hit with his employees.
“Being able to work remotely is key to Pooch & Mutt’s success and growth rates. We’re a small company and everyone has to multi-task,” he explained.
He added that for some companies, like his own, flexible working was an important option – and communication between colleagues doesn’t suffer with the range of technology available today.
“We are often out of the office; working remotely, attending shows, visiting customers and pitching for new business. We always get feedback when we are out and about that we need to share with others in the office, and remote working tools allow us to do this easily.”
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Of those who had requested flexible working from their employers, over 80 per cent of SME employees said it had made a positive difference to their working life. Not all SME employees are offered this opportunity however – 44 per cent said they just weren’t able to work remotely. Microsoft’s study suggested this had a stifling effect on creativity since only one in ten felt they’d had their best work-related idea in the office.
Dave Coplin, chief envisioning officer at Microsoft UK, said: “Business leaders should reimagine how workers operate. According to the Office of National Statistics, productivity levels in the UK are stagnant and lower than the start of the recession in 2007.”
“There’s never been a better time to change, since there’s a risk that firms are cultivating an environment that traps staff in process and red-tape instead of giving them the opportunity to think and have the necessary head-space to be creative,” he added.
Other research from Censuswide and Unify found that 37 per cent of companies don’t offer flexible working, despite 39 per cent of respondents claiming they would be more loyal to an organisation that did.
Matthew Singer, VP marketing at Jobvite, said that flexible working could hold the key to addressing the UK’s talent shortage. “Ensuring your company offers this means employees feel in control of their own lives, improving both attraction and retention rates. If this is ignored though, your business runs the risk of losing out on the greatest candidates and chances for growth,” he warned.