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Five ‘hidden’ employer benefits of flexible working

Recent research from TPP has shown just how valuable offering flexible working can be for non-profit organisations, and the positive effects it brings to productivity, morale, recruitment and retention have been well-documented. However, some organisations are still reluctant to introduce flexible working practices or extend them more widely throughout their staff.

There are benefits that flexible working brings that are less obvious than those mentioned above, but should still be taken into account when considering whether to introduce or extend your flexible working scheme.

Improved diversity

Offering flexible working is one of the key ways in which organisations can build a more diverse workforce. Employees with different lifestyles, family responsibilities or long-term health conditions usually find it difficult to manage a 9-5 office-based job, and flexible working is vital for them.

Diverse workforces have a broader mix of skills, knowledge and experience, giving an organisation more creativity and flexibility to overcome challenges. It has also been proven that increasing diversity leads to better staff retention.

Find out more about improving diversity

Support for local communities

In recent years there has been a growing trend within charities to decentralise resources, as charities increasingly try to keep close to the local communities in which they work. Local communities also play an important part in fundraising.

International development organisations have been at the forefront of this trend, as their service users are in a different country, and often in a different time zone, and on the ground employees can be much more effective.

Some of the larger UK-based charities have set up regional units in satellite offices to encourage localism, but for smaller charities this is not always possible. However, recruiting staff from the local community and encouraging them to work from home wherever possible can help a charity to keep in touch with its service users. It can also benefit the local community as staff spend more of their salary in that area.

Environmental impact

Most charities, whether it is part of their mission or not, tend to act in an ethical manner regarding the environment wherever possible.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the typical carbon footprint of an officer worker is 1.5 tonnes of CO2 per year, compared to the 865 kg footprint of a home worker. That’s a 42% saving, roughly the equivalent of 100 loads of laundry.

Even if it’s not possible to offer full-time remote working, encouraging employees to work some of the time from home and use web- or telephone-conferencing rather than travelling to meetings can all help reduce their carbon footprint.

Cost savings

The average office cost per employee in the UK is £6k per year. That’s a huge amount of money considering the average UK office is only at 45% occupancy over the working day.

In the current economic climate, when charities are being forced to explore ways of cutting costs without affecting their services, this is really a factor you cannot afford to ignore.

Staggered home working, combined with hotdesking, can really improve the efficiency of your office and help bring down overhead costs.

Skills sharing and upskilling

Having staff members who are regularly out of the office can have a positive effect on the team as a whole. Responsibilities and the skill sets they require are more likely to be shared across the team, and the likelihood of skills silos decreased.

This gives employers the opportunity to take over tasks they might not normally handle, allowing them to grow their skills and giving them a more varied work life, which can help boost morale. Spreading skills and knowledge across a team also helps to ensure that productivity does not drop in periods of staff turnover.

However, to really foster a spirit of cooperation in an office, it is important that all employees are given equal opportunities for flexible working. Allowing some staff to work remotely but giving others no flexible options can create resentment and will make it much harder to create an environment in which workers are willing to share their knowledge and skills.

Now is the time

At a recent conference, Transport Minister Norman Baker, encouraged organisations to use the London 2012 Olympic Games as an opportunity to test different flexible working strategies that allow staff to work from home or from offices closer to where they live.

The Family and Parenting Institute expect the Olympics to be a “watershed moment” that embeds widespread flexible working practices in the UK, as organisations create opportunities for flexible working, see the added value it brings, and implement these schemes on a more permanent basis.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has said that flexible working is essential for future growth in the UK, so why not embrace the challenges of the Olympics as an opportunity to harness the full value of flexible working for your organisation?

More information

For more help with flexible working strategies, see:

TPP Blog - Part time workers can add value to your organisation
TPP Blog - 5 ways to engage remote workers
Civil Society Finance - Flexible working: the new normal
HR Zone - Four managerial traits to ensure flexible working works
Small Business Blog - Five Ways Flexible Working Can Boost Productivity