Orange outlines flexible working challenges as one-quarter of flexible workers admit to no formal agreement

With one-third of staff working non-standard hours, another survey points to the challenges faced by UK employers in dealing with flexible working practices.

Work undertaken by the Orange Future Enterprise coalition in a report entitled Beyond Boundaries found that half of 1,440 respondents said they had some sort of flexible working arrangement. However, one-quarter said they had no formal agreement with their employer about how they do this.

Half of respondents said flexible working would be an important factor in choosing their next job. However, only 24% said they would actively pursue more flexible arrangements in the next year.

Benefits high on the list of flexible working included saving travel and commuting time for three-quarters of respondents, while 85% of workers said that being able to make the most of leisure time was important.

Robert Ainger, director of communications and operations at Orange Business Services, said: “There are major challenges for both employers and employees in dealing with flexible working.

“A key challenge is how notions of effectiveness are being redefined. Being the first or the last in the office can no longer be a measure of an employee’s commitment and productivity, and managing a flexible workforce will mean worrying less about how employees work and more about what they produce,” he added.

The Orange Future Enterprise coalition points to a number employee and employer challenges that need to be overcome:

Employee challenges

  • Inequality of working arrangements: flexible working arrangements are often perceived as inaccessible and unfair
  • Part-time overtime trap: workers with reduced hours often have to work extensive unpaid overtime to complete their responsibilities
  • Lack of logistical support: flexible home workers are increasingly reliant on remote access to information and data systems
  • Keeping personal profile high: remote or highly mobile workers often feel that they, and the work they do, lacks visibility
  • Being out of the loop: employees who work outside standard hours or out of the main office risk missing information circulated internally
  • Appropriate environment: many of those working from home can lack the relevant space and equipment to do so.

Employer challenges

Effectiveness

  • Establishing the right culture and procedures: adopting a laissez-faire style of flexibility can cause problems if it is not carefully monitored and evaluated
  • Keeping track of logistics: flexibility can affect resource if scheduling isn’t properly managed
  • Supporting technology dependence: ‘anytime,anywhere’ working can put increased stress on IT departments
  • Maintaining fairness: a transparent rationale for flexible working is needed to avoid confusion or perceptions of unfairness between employees
  • Keeping the right to refuse: not all roles are appropriate for flexible working
  • Monitoring, motivating and evaluating: managing by objectives rather than evaluating by attendance.

Lifestyle

  • Cracking the stress issue: switching off is becoming more challenging and, therefore, there need to be ways of managing the blurring boundaries between work and free time
  • Raising the bar: flexibility can become part of a company’s HR recruitment package.

Space

  • Ensuring there is sufficient space: employees still want a spiritual home
  • Dedicated office space is still needed even if employees work from home to maintain employee connection
  • Keeping the dialogue going: ensure staff have the opportunity for social interaction, even if this is in a virtual space
  • Juggling space at home: employees are unlikely to have dedicated office space at home, the responsibility of ensuring appropriate working space can be a health and safety issue.

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