Employees feel flexible working options are restricted

Just
55 per cent of UK employees feel they have the opportunity to work flexibly,
according to a new study.

A
survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting shows that despite previous claims
that nearly all employers (96 per cent) offer at least one flexible-working
arrangement, workers do not feel that they have options.

David
Tong, senior consultant, organisational research & effectiveness group at
Mercer, said: "There are often gaps between company policies and employee
perceptions.  Many organisations fail to
clearly communicate their policies or support for flexible working.  This information is often buried in a
company handbook and seldom sees the light of day.

"Policies
that are developed at corporate level may not receive the support needed from
line managers, and are sometimes actively resisted. 

"An
effective flexible working policy will often involve a major change in
management behaviour.  Organisations
must therefore build support among their front-line managers, and this is best
achieved by involving them early in policy development."

The
study shows that almost 8 in 10 employees (79 per cent) feel that flexible
working arrangements are an important factor influencing their commitment and
motivation.  Differences are noted
between males and females; 86 per cent of females view flexible working as important
compared with 74 per cent of male workers.

Tong
said: "Where there is a critical job skills shortage, organisations tend
to become more creative and tolerant of flexible working arrangements –
necessity becomes the mother of invention."

Only
half the employees surveyed (53 per cent) feel there are enough staff to handle
the workload in their department.  Tong
said: "Where staffing levels are insufficient to meet work demands,
managers are often reluctant to experiment with new working practices.  Yet, failure to introduce flexible solutions
may result in the loss of skilled employees."

Where
the scope for flexible working is lacking, employees may have greater
difficulty in maintaining a balance between their work and personal lives.  Just half of those surveyed (53 per cent)
feel that employees in their organisation are able to maintain a healthy
balance between their work and personal lives.

By Quentin Reade

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