Back to basics: what is flexible working?

Specialist insight

Back to basics: what is flexible working?

Flexible working is one of the biggest growing trends in operations management. Over the last five years alone, it’s become such a key part of the business landscape that countries like the UK and Australia have made requesting flexible arrangements a legal right, while Singapore’s government offers significant grants to encourage its implementation.

But, behind the headlines, what actually is flexible working – and why is it so beneficial?

Helping your employees to perform at their best

Essentially, the term ‘flexible working’ covers a range of models that allows employees to work away from the main office or outside traditional working hours. In large companies, this could mean coming into corporate HQ twice a week and using a coworking space with a shorter commute for the rest of the time, or switching between flexible office spaces to be closer to different clients.

Whatever form it takes, it’s largely based on four key benefits: increased motivation, productivity, savings and profits. Let’s look at them in more detail.

Win-win: advantages for employers and employees

  • Greater motivation: 63% of workers worldwide feel more motivated as a direct result of flexible working, Regus research shows. This is particularly strong in the fast-paced BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China), with almost four in five Chinese and Brazilian workers agreeing with this statement. This is no surprise when you consider that by implementing flexible working, you’re letting employees take ownership of their work – and in large companies, research shows that one of the biggest drivers of worker’s investment in their job is empowerment. In fact, this comes naturally with flexible working, as shifting from a traditional 9-5, HQ-based model to a more individualized one requires tracking employee progress through results and not by hours logged. This means that staff isn’t just getting a better work-life balance by, for example, cutting their commute, but can also directly see and control their contribution to the company.
  • Greater productivity: the extra motivation clearly pays off, as Regus studies show that 72% of workers find flexible models make them more productive. For instance, in large corporations where internal teams such as IT have less contact with external bodies, but equally don’t need to be based in-house all the time, the collaborative environment of a coworking space can prompt new ideas and skill sharing. Around 75% of South Africans find shared workspaces increase creativity, while over 70% of Japanese workers say it helps them learn and develop their skills.
  • Greater savings: over 60% of companies say flexible working is more cost-effective than traditional arrangements. The reason is simple – it saves on desk space. Around 55% of desks are unused at any given point in the average office, meaning you’re paying for underutilized space. In a large company, this can add up to a significant amount of wasted square footage. Flexible workspaces allow your employees to use desks and meeting rooms only when they actually need them – meaning you only spend on space when it’s adding value to your team.
  • Greater profits: more than 80% of Chinese and Mexican firms report that flexible working lets them generate more revenue, Regus statistics show. For large companies, presenteeism can be a barrier to getting the best results from some workers. Switching to a model where employees work partially, largely or entirely in shared or flexible spaces is a simple way to beat this. As mentioned above, it’s a key catalyst for the development of a results-oriented culture, where employees are evaluated (and evaluate themselves) based not on hours done, but work done.