Saturday, November 12, 2011

UK Government Recognises Value of Flexible Working

It seems that at long last the message might be getting through. Instead of seeing flexible working as just a ‘family friendly’ provision, a government minister has now recognized that it can also deliver massive cost savings.

Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, announced this week that the government could save £15 billion per year by adopting flexible working and home working practices. He based this on a report just published by the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum chaired by Matthew Hancock MP. This group published a report in February 2011, called ‘Leaner and Greener: Delivering Effective Estate Management’, which estimated that public sector organisations could deliver £7 billion in annual savings from decreasing the space they occupy. The latest report ‘Leaner and Greener II’ adds a further £8 billion to the total, based on increased productivity.

The report and its recommendations concentrate on real estate and the way that property costs can be reduced by better utilisation and rationalisation. However it concludes that “Research shows that improvements to the workplace can enhance productivity of employees from between 5%-15%”. Using the bottom of this range they calculate that £8 billion a year can be saved from government expenditure by having more effective workplaces.

While this report is primarily focused on efficiency savings achievable through property, it adds “it is important to emphasise that the relative weightings of property and staff costs … display that the cost of human resources far outstrips property cost. In addition, evidence shows that flexible working opportunities are an important element in retaining a highly skilled workforce and lowering turnover, as employees seek employers able to provide them with work- life balance. Flexible working therefore has significant potential to not only deliver property savings, but can importantly also reduce staff costs.”

So maybe the government need to follow up with a report looking at the potential for savings based on new working practices and not just include it as an afterthought in a report about property.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Future Work - book now published

I'm pleased to announce that I am the co-author of a great new book - "Future Work: how businesses can adapt and thrive in the new world of work". It's been almost two years since I teamed up with Alison Maitland and we embarked on this project.

Alison has a background as a journalist, having worked for the FT, and has written many articles about Flexible Working and related management issues. She has also co-written a previous book "Why women mean business". We found that the combination of our background and experience worked well in identifying the key components that contribute to new ways of working.

We decided to call the book, and the new style of working, "Future Work" to differentiate it from Flexible Working or Smart Work which come with their own baggage. We feel that Flexible Working has been too closely associated with 'family friendly' employee benefits and is seen as a burden on business. We point to many examples of Future Work which contribute to the bottom line through increased productivity, lower costs, reduced employee turnover and lower absenteeism.

We identify the 'trust and empower' culture needed to implement Future Work, based on the results of a survey of middle managers carried out for the book. We show that these managers are not happy with their current organisational culture and would like their people to have more autonomy over their working practices.

As we say in the book "We are still in the early stages of the transformation of work, largely because corporate cultures and management styles are not keeping pace with technological advances. This was why we embarked on this book: to help managers and organizations make the necessary shift to more efficient business, better lives and a healthier Earth for the next generation to inherit.
Future work is one of those rare opportunities for all-round benefit. As we have shown through numerous examples in this book, it contributes positively to the bottom line while improving the lives of workers and helping to protect our fragile ecosystem. It is not an option for business any longer. It is a matter of staying competitive."

For more information see