Category Archives: Employers

Protecting Business Productivity with Agile Working

Avoid Threats Posed by Further Strikes with Flexible Working

After recent news of the threat of London tube strikes, there are fears that further rows could erupt, with the potential to cause maximum disruption and widespread chaos.

A strike planned for 14th October by London Underground workers in a dispute over austerity led cuts was abandoned after last-ditch talks. The breakthrough was made after ‘substantial progress’ was made by  the Rail, Maritime and Transport union in the ongoing issue of cuts and Tube ticket office closures

But does this mark the end of the dispute? According to some, it is unlikely that this is the end of the matter. Despite negotiations, the threat of disruptive industrial action still looms large.

The possibility of strike action strengthens the case for flexible working. With new technology, employees are more and more able to work remotely, including from their own homes. This, coupled with new statistics on the efficacy of flexible working further questions the relevancy of the traditional office in a digital age.

These recent events (and June’s changes to flexible working) show that it is high time for businesses to reassess, and view flexible working as a means of protecting their business from the chaos that would result from transport strikes, while simultaneously building an infrastructure which promotes growth.

Strikes aside, it was estimated by the CEBR that drivers in London spent more than 250 hours idling in traffic in 2013 and this was likely to increase to 299 hours by 2030, equivalent to 40 working days a year, suggesting that increased agile working would help to improve the productivity of workers affected by transport difficulties.

Homeworking/remote working refers to work done at home, or outwith the primary office environment. However, remote working may also refer to situations where only part of an employee’s workload is completed outside of the office. Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that a degree of remote working could be introduced into the majority of employees’ schedules.

For businesses wishing to check up on the productivity of their workers, there are monitoring systems in place and this can reassure employers. There is also much to be said about the cost-effective nature of remote working. In a recent study by Deloitte it was found that 30 to 40 percent of physical working environment are vacant at any given moment on an average business day. Decrease reliance on offices and cut overhead costs unnecessary costs. There is even evidence that allow workers greater flexibility will boost productivity. Finally, increased flexible working could also be beneficial for the environment, in that cutting commuter traffic in busy cities would dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

While no-one can say for sure whether or not the threat of London Tube Strikes has subsided, now certainly seems like a good time for employees to take into account the diverse benefits that remote working can bring.

Whatever Tomorrow’s Outcome, Flexibility is the Future!

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It’s the eve of the referendum of Scottish independence, and in the run up to the event, Flexiworkforce CEO and founder Tracey Eker has been meeting with politicians from both sides of the  the campaign in order to discuss the ways in which flexible working will be of benefit to Scotland both within the UK or as an independent state.

First the Flexiworkforce team met John Mason, a Scottish Nationalist and member of the Scottish Parliament who sits on the Committee for Equal Opportunities. Secondly, we met with Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire Jo Swinson, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment Relations.

“It was great to meet with representatives from both factions” Tracey Eker stated, “It enabled us to gain a balanced view of how flexible working would be advantageous to Scotland’s future, whether it may be within the Union, or as an independent country.”

From a political perspective, the benefits of flexible working are numerous, and include:

  • Flexible working may help to alleviate the ongoing skills shortage, in that in-demand professionals who have previously left the workforce may be brought back in on a part-time, flexible basis
  • Flexible working will improve diversity and equal opportunities within organisations ranging from SMEs to large corporates companies, by improving inclusion of groups such as women, the over 50s and those with disabilities or mental health issues.
  • The result of this will ultimately be a decrease in overall unemployment.
  • Increased flexible working may also help to decrease working poverty, in that increased transparency in job ads will enable individuals to access work appropriate to their skills level, therefore, freeing up minimum wage roles for other job seekers.
  • Increased flexible working may decrease unemployment unemployment ‘portfolio’ workers who work several roles simultaneously. This form of working is especially prevalent in the ‘Gen Y‘ demographic, in which unemployment is high.

Therefore, whatever the result of the Referendum, we hope that the trend towards flexible working continues, whether Scotland votes for independence, or  continues to be part of the Union, in order to bridge inequality, solve the skills shortage and make our society fairer.

Vote for Flexible working!

How the UK Skills Shortage Will Boost Flexible Working

War on Talent Continues as Top Talent Demand Flexible Working

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August 2014 saw a record drop in the number of candidates applying for permanent and full-time jobs, a recent report commissioned by the Bank of Scotland has revealed

The Bank of Scotland chief economist Donald MacRae consolidates the report’s findings: ‘There was a record drop in people available for jobs and growing evidence of strong growth in pay, confirming the tightening of the jobs market’. However, this drop has been countered by a marked increase in individuals applying for short-term and part-time roles, confirming that the Scottish jobs market continues to go “from strength to strength”.

The change may be interpreted as a result of the skills shortage currently affecting the UK. A dearth of skilled candidates means that certain sectors continue to struggle to fill full-time positions, including the medical and care sectors, IT and computing and the engineering sector.

“A huge number of skilled candidates have been excluded from the job market because of a lack of part-time roles and flexible working positions. The ongoing skills shortage means that these professionals are highly sought-after, and are in a strong position to dictate their salaries and working conditions, including work schedules’. Flexiworkforce CEO Tracey Eker confirms.

Nevertheless, the growth in flexible, part-time and short contract positions may also be seen as a boon for employers seeking to broaden their talent pool by increasing their access talented candidates.

By hiring candidates on a flexible basis, companies can effectively get the skills that their business needs, for the money they can afford, something especially vital for emerging SMEs, many of whom rely on contractual workers. In particular, engineering and construction saw a marked increase in temporary job openings. This suggests that this rise modern flexible working has come about as a mutually beneficial option, resulting from the convergence in the needs of employees and businesses.

The skills shortage shows no sign of stopping, meaning that level of bargaining power that workers have to negotiate their working conditions is only set to increase. As the war for talent rages on, it is likely that flexibility will be a major factor in determine which companies ultimately survive, thrive and fail.

‘The last bastion of differentiation in the fight for mind share and market share for a business is its people. Yet hiring, retaining and motivating the best talent is no easy task in an age where loyalty to one job for life, or even five years, is starting to sound prehistoric’. Eker states.

‘Developing a flexible company culture that will help attract, retain and motivate the best employees to achieve amazing results is essential’.

Click here for more information on how you can hire the best candidates for your business.

The Importance of Employee Engagement

Are You doing enough to motivate your workforce?

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Arguably, the biggest single threat to staff retention and productivity within the workplace is the issue of employee engagement. Employee engagement may be defined as a way of working whereby employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values and motivated to contribute to the overall success of the business, while at the same time being able to enhance their own sense of accomplishment and self-worth.

Employee engagement is vital to the successful running of an organisation in two different ways:

  1. Employee engagement improves employee attitude, meaning that the employee will feel a sense of loyalty and pride at being part of the organisation, as a result of the support and positive reinforcement they receive.
  2. Employee engagement will improve the employee’s actions, meaning their output and productivity. This is because the engaged worker feels a sense of accomplishment in completing a task well, knowing that their actions will be appreciated and appropriately rewarded by their employer.

There is evidence to suggest that failure to properly engage employees may have a detrimental effect upon company growth. Studies have shown that absenteeism is 37% worse for organisations with disengaged workers, while there is a 4% increase in safety incidents within disengaged workplaces. Furthermore, it has been discovered that productivity plummets by 21% when workers are not properly engaged.

It’s clear, therefore, that proper employee engagement is vital to maintenance and growth of a business, and must be an integral part of your long-term strategy. Here is a brief guide to engaging your employees and securing the growth of your business.

 Do not confuse engagement with short-term happiness

You might offer unlimited holidays, free beer on Fridays and a host of other benefits designed to instil a relaxed, positive working culture. However, this will count for nothing unless your employees are properly engaged. As a result, is important to consider what will really make your employees feel more motivated and fulfilled, rather than hoping that flexible benefits will be enough to keep your staff feeling motivated and keen to improve.

Think CSR

Corporate social responsibility is the way forward, and is increasingly becoming the main way in which companies attract and retain new candidates. This is because the millennial generation are overwhelmingly preoccupied with CSR. 80% of a sample of 1,800 13-25 year olds claimed that their ideal workplace would be one which cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. The majority of this claimed they would refuse to work an ‘irresponsible’ organisation.

One way of improving your business’s CSR might be the introduction of ‘flex-days’ in which time could be devoted to helping out at local charities or projects within the wider community. Building your company’s social responsibility will be vital to harnessing the talented candidates needed for it to grow and thrive.

Make the most of positivity and reinforcement.

Psychologists claim that self-determination is vital for true employee engagement, meaning that staff must feel personally invested in the business in order to deliver maximum productivity and favourable results. How to instil a sense of self-determination in your staff? One way might be to encourage your employees to choose their own projects to work on. By allotting time each week for your staff to work on their own projects autonomously, you will allow them to feel increased pride in their work, and this will contribute to more employee engagement overall.

Also highly important is adequate support and feedback, which will allow your employees to feel that their results are being measured and dully rewarded, which in the long-term will aid staff retention.

Flexibility and Trust will allow your employees to work like adults

Fostering a culture of trust within your workplace is key to truly engaged employees. Employees who are trusted to work to a high standard without constant supervision will deliver optimum results. Employees who are chained to their desk and not trusted to work independently will have less motivation to prove their worth! Studies have proven that flexibility at work makes for increased productivity, whereas ridged ‘presenteeism’ stifles creativity. In short, accommodating the need for flexibility in your business will lead to genuine engagement throughout your organisation.

Work Life Balance- a ‘Radical’ Decision?

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Max Shireson is the CEO of a top Silicon Valley software company. He received considerable media attention last week, after blogging about his ‘radical’ decision to opt for increased work/life balance, leaving his high-power role.

Despite his success in the world of work, the man was dissatisfied at the extent to which his position required him to take a step back from family commitments, and spending time with his three children.
“Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family and am confident that I can continue to have a meaningful and rewarding work life while doing so,”

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Image via Business Insider

It is reasonable to question why has this case received so much attention, as a newsworthy story? Max Shireson is not the only man to have ever expressed a desire to spend more time with his family. More and more men are seeking jobs flexible enough to enable them to successfully juggle their work with family life. However, it’s rare to see the CEO of a high-profile company prioritising family over work:

“As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO”.

Max Shireson’s story is important, in that it will help to further smash taboos surrounding traditional gender roles, proving that a man’s decision to opt for work/life balance and family commitments is every bit as valid as a woman’s. It will take time to change long-held notions, but gradual change often occurs from the top down, meaning that Shireson’s story may inspire an entire generation of men to rethink the way they work.