Will Flexible Work and Virtual Offices Become the Norm?

LONDON—A whopping 90 percent of UK professionals think flexible working, which includes telecommuting from a virtual office, will soon become the dominant employment model. So says new research from specialist HR recruiter Ortus.

HR professionals are even stronger in this flexible work prediction. Indeed, 96 percent of HR professionals said flexible work will become the main model. Flexible work includes telecommuting from virtual offices, workshifting, part-time and other models.

“The business case is obvious as it allows for efficiency savings on office costs and greater output,” says Stephen Menko, UK director of Ortus. “Widespread flexible working could be a seismic shift in the way work is conducted and it is that rare beast—a change that benefits everyone. Staff just need to be convinced of this point, or at least have it raised on their radar as a benefit they can request. I think for a lot of organizations it’s not even considered as something that can be entertained.”

The general consensus is that employees think flexible working will be adopted for business reasons rather than the benefit to the workforce. Fifty one percent see the motive for flexible work as efficiency and productivity. Only 12 percent thought it would be implemented to help people manage the number of hours they work and only 10 percent said they thought it was being implemented to help with gender equality.

And this is an interesting finding: The majority of people also appear to be unaware that they are entitled to request flexible working, such as working from a virtual office. A mere third of those questioned said this was something their company offered, whereas government statistics estimate that 91 percent of employers offer flexible working.

The research also found that almost twice as many female professionals rank flexible working as ‘vital’ compared with men. Sixteen percent of women said this, compared with just 9 percent of men.  In contrast, men (28%) ranked receiving a bonus as vital, compared with women (21%).

“Despite changing family structures, the responsibility for childcare still very often falls on the mother, explaining, in part, some of the reasons for gender inequality in the UK workforce; as often women forgo career paths to focus on family life and in doing so can miss out on experience and opportunity which can impact their remuneration potential,” Menko says.

“In this context the appetite for flexible working, amongst women, is clear and should be sated for many reasons, but notably it enables people, of any gender, to juggle other commitments with their careers, and it does so to the benefit of the businesses they work for. HR professionals have a role in helping to give voice to this market request for flexible working, and to help companies stay competitive in the process by keeping their best talent, whatever its gender.”


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