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Flexible Working May Hamper Careers

August 16 2006 - A recent study by business communications provider Inter-Tel questioned over 100 office-based workers about attitudes to flexible working. This identified positive reasons for applying to work flexibly but significant doubts about the likely response of employers.

Significant findings included:

  • 90 per cent of respondents agreed that all employees should have the same right to request more flexible work patterns, irrespective of domestic circumstances.
  • 30 per cent felt their organization did not respond equitably to such requests and 54 per cent were unsure about this issue.
  • 60 per cent believed requesting greater flexibility could have a negative impact on the careers of people without children.
  • 82 per cent considered flexible working a privilege; only 18 per cent felt it should be a right.
  • 40 per cent felt their employer would not trust them to work from home.

Duncan Miller of Inter-Tel EMEA said:

'The trend for home working continues to grow. Data from the UK Office of National Statistics confirms that there are now more than two million people working from home and a further eight million opting to spend at least part of their working week outside the office. Clearly, there are still issues to be overcome and an education process needs to take place so that everyone knows what their rights are and ways in which they can improve their work life balance.'

Over two-thirds of respondents identified 'a better quality of life' as the most important reason for applying to work flexibly. Other factors centred on more time for family (22 per cent), non-work activities such as courses (6 per cent), and travel (3 per cent).

Duncan Miller concluded:

'We are now at a stage of technological development where people can work as effectively from their home or on the move, as they can at a desk in their company's office. Of course, flexible or home working is not feasible or suitable for all organizations, but employers should be looking at ways to address the work/life balance of their staff and be very clear on their policy in this area. A happier, healthier workforce can lead to greater productivity in the long term and increase staff retention.'

New rights to flexibility may be leading to a reversal of the trend seen over the last decade. A 2001 Industrial Society (now the Work Foundation) survey of 516 human resource specialists found that 91% of respondents' organizations used some form of flexible working. This compared with 84% in 1998. 75% of respondents said that flexible working made good business sense for the organisation, with almost two-thirds (63%) saying that it built trust, loyalty and commitment.

See also: Flexibility reduces absenteeism.


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