Real flexibility?

Jun 28 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Here in the UK, government legislation is driving organisations to offer more open work arrangements to staff with the aim of ensuring parents and carers have the opportunity to progress with careers.

As a new report by the UK-based Orange Future Enterprise coalition (OFEc) has highlights, this poses some very real management challenges for employers and employees.

The report, Beyond Boundaries, examines the wider debate of how flexibility will change organisations both from the employer and the employee perspective.

One interesting statistic that emerged from the research is that while UK employers are among the leaders in Europe in offering part-time working, they lag way behind when it comes to offering working arrangements that are flexible about working time and place.

In fact fewer than half of UK firms offering flexi-time to staff, compared to over nine out of 10 in Germany, Sweden and Finland.

That's a pretty critical distinction. Because while part-time work may slot into the academic definition of "flexibility", it doesn't slot into mine. It also suggests that many organisations are still locked into the old "productivity = presence" mindset and remain highly suspicious about anyone who argues that they might actually be better off working from somewhere other than a distraction-filled office that take hours to get to.

So there's still a long way to go. But as some of the case studies in the OFEc report demonstrate, change IS possibe.