Employer trust a barrier to flexible working

Jan 30 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

More than two million UK workers now regularly telecommute, according to figures from the Social Market Foundation, with employees using the time saved from commuting and meetings for extra work.

But although telecommuting can increase productivity by up to 30 per cent, it has so far failed to deliver on its promise of a better work/life balance.

Staff offered teleworking said that they were happier in their jobs, but denied that flexible working had a direct beneficial impact on their family life or work/life balance.

And despite recognised and compelling business benefits, few employers extend the benefits of teleworking to all employees.

Employer trust remains a significant barrier to companies allowing staff to work from home. The UK's culture of 'presenteeism' has also led many employers to view flexible working as a euphemism for shirking.

The latest Labour Market Trends survey suggests that occasional teleworking has increased by 82 per cent in the past five years, but still tends to be for middle management and above.

"While it is clear that technology is having little direct impact on family life at present, it has the potential to improve employee productivity significantly," explained Beth Egan, deputy director of the Social Market Foundation.

"It is clear that the business case for flexible working is beginning to prove itself, and that the technology can now deliver," said Egan. "But employers must trust all employees to work productively from home or on the road, as in the office, before we see the next great upsurge in flexible working."