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Out of sight…?

With many businesses feeling apprehensive about new flexible working legislation, now is an opportune time to look at business benefits and best practice.

Report by Andrew McGrath, commercial director of ntl: Telewest Business.

Flexible working has been gaining momentum for a number of years, which is proof of how technology has fundamentally changed the traditional working environment. Just a few years ago it would have seemed impossible that companies could operate effectively and efficiently with employees distributed across disparate offices and remotely. Following flexible working legislation that was passed on April 6th, now over 10million people have the right to request flexible working from their employers. This means that any remaining companies which still have concerns will have to reconsider their objections.

Typically there are two main areas of concern when it comes to remote working. Firstly, there is the perceived cost vs. benefit equation. For companies facing challenging times, setting up the infrastructure to allow remote working can seem like an unnecessary expense, after all, where does the business benefit lie? The good news is two-fold, in that technology required to make flexible working a reality is available and the set up costs have reduced. Laptops, smartphones and nationally available high-speed business broadband have become more affordable and furthermore developments in virtual networking have reduced the time required to put flexible working into practice.

In reality, a flexible working policy can actually save companies money as it can form a vital lynchpin of any business continuity plan. When the UK experienced heavy snow in February and many employees were unable to make it to work, it was estimated that this cost the economy £1.2 billion, as 6.4 million people stayed home. Companies with a remotely enabled workforce were able to function better than others, maintaining business as usual, regardless of the extreme weather conditions.

Another area of concern is that staff productivity will fall when they are away from the watchful eye of their manager. In fact, flexible working actually serves to keep a workforce happy and motivated. Many businesses find that productivity increases when staff are able to work remotely. However, as with any company-wide policy, success lies in how it is deployed. A flexible working policy must combine the fundamentals of good management – setting a good example, trusting your staff, with sound
organisational and communication skills.

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