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Young Workers Look For Flexibility

August 21 2006 - Research for BT Business conducted earlier this year indicates that more than a third of British workers (37 per cent of men and 34 per cent of women) would be prepared to forgo a pay increase for more flexible working options.

Interest shows regional variation, with 37 per cent of London workers and 23 per cent of those in the north-west of England, Yorkshire and Humberside willing to consider it. The survey also found that 43 per cent of 18 to 29- year-olds are interested, compared to 31 per cent of the over 50s.

The research, conducted by YouGov, indicates that flexible working policies are valued across the age range, but with an above average response from young people, more than three-quarters of whom agreed that it is an important benefit. Almost two-thirds of those aged 18 to 29 identified a better work/life balance as the main advantage, followed by less stress and fewer travel problems. This trend is supported by a DTI survey that found 70 per cent of graduate job seekers are actively looking for the chance to work flexibly, almost half consider it the most important benefit an employer could offer.

Beatriz Butsana-Sita, head of marketing, BT Business, said:

"For young people today the idea of being in the same office, at the same time, with the same people every day, is just completely out of date. Wireless and mobile technologies and the ability to work effectively away from the office come as second nature to today's generation of graduates. It's increasingly something that they expect from an employer."

Directors of smaller businesses also recognize that flexible working policies can benefit their organization with 65 per cent citing staff motivation and 50 per cent increased productivity as key advantages. Some 59 per cent of small businesses believe they are as able to offer flexible working as larger organizations and could attract better candidates as a result.

Butsana-Sita continued:

"Flexible working has previously been considered as a 'large company' issue. However, the adoption of converged technology has seen a surge in flexible working practices and aspirations among smaller businesses.

The workforce of the future has been brought up with technology as part of their daily lives. Flexible working allowing a better work/life balance is prized over straight economic affluence. It's something all SME employers should think about".

This is illustrated by Illusion Factor, an integrated communications agency based in London with 30 permanent and 70 project staff. It implemented a converged IT solution (staff Blackberry's, BT Broadband and virtual private network access at home) which allows it to adapt to fluctuating work demands.

Kelvin James, director, Illusion Factor, said:

"Not only does our converged IT network give us a competitive advantage by being very accessible and cost effective for our clients, it also realises many personal benefits. Our staff can choose how and where they work and on the occasions a deadline means unsociable hours, they have the option to work from home and take the next day off to compensate. I believe this is important for maintaining a good work/life balance and in turn a happy and productive workforce."

BT believes that with the right combination of secure infrastructure, systems and support, any organization, regardless of size, can ensure its employees work together flexibly and effectively.

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