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Flexible Working

Small Business = Low Tech?

Bending with the wind of change…

First a caveat. Any research commissioned by a major telecommunications company that leads to a conclusion that small businesses should invest in more technology has to be viewed as a little biased. At the very least, there’s no getting away from the vested interest. However, so long as we keep that in mind, O2’s recent research into flexible working can still offer some useful morsels for thought.

SMEs Are Lagging Behind

Apparently, fully a quarter of the SMEs surveyed don’t use any technology to assist flexible working, and only a fifth have begun to consider the benefits of cloud computing to help employees work outside of the office. Add to this a recent Intel survey that found the fax machine was more widely used than the smartphone and SMEs are starting to look more than a little technophobic.

Technology Can be More Beneficial than You Think

So why exactly should you be thinking about how to work more flexibly? Well, a CIPD report states that the benefits include:

  • Easier recruitment and better retention of valuable employees;
  • A better work-life balance, resulting in a more committed and loyal workforce;
  • Less stress as employees find it easier to manage the demands of the job;
  • Better attendance and a reduced turnover;

 

This all leads to a more positive image for the employer, not only with employees but also with customers.

Flexi Working is Not Just About Offering Flexible Hours

Part of small businesses’ reluctance to ‘flexi up’ can come from a narrow view of what flexible working actually is. O2 found that where policies and practices exist, they tend to consist solely of offering  flexible hours and/or part-time working. It’s true that many employers see flexible working as being purely about timekeeping but it is also about location – home working, mobile working, and so on – and it’s here that common technology such as laptops, smartphones and the right software can begin to create a more balanced outcome. Flexible working is often cited as a perk for the employee and a necessary evil for the employer but flexible working can also benefit the business, helping employees to break with routine and convention and offer the sort of service that customers demand in the 21st century.

Ultimately, whatever we think of O2’s motives, they’ve raised a relevant issue for SMEs. Introducing any change to the workplace is never straightforward but it’s possible that with some flexible thinking, you could realise the benefits of flexible working.

(For more ideas on flexible working, there are some interesting case studies in the BCC-CIPD report, Flexible Working: Good Business – how small firms are doing it ; it’s a few years old now but still makes for compelling reading.)

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