Headlines: November 4th, 2005

The pundits predicted that new technology in its many forms would stimulate a move to working from home across the public sector. The benefits of a flexible approach with variable amounts of work time divided between office and home are unquestionable. Uninterrupted working at home, with zero travel, boosts productivity, reduces costs and improves the work life balance. The reality is that the revolution did not happen and it is estimated that only 8% of public sector organisations are fully set up to work flexibly.The main barriers to flexible working are co-ordination difficulties and lack of trust by managements. 43% of managers believe that a major impediment to home working is the difficulty in making the administration arrangements. Although 19% of managers listed trust as another barrier, a further 27% also said that they believed there are too many distractions at home.

However, the research suggests that employees are keen to develop smarter working methods. Two in five believed it would allow them to concentrate better on important tasks, 39% thought it would increase their efficiency, and over a third stated that it would make them more productive.

The level of interest in flexi-working in jobs where it might not traditionally be seen as possible was high with 32% in the Police force and 34% in education. Those in central and local Government, 48% and 39% respectively, were most aware of the productivity benefits of flexi working. Managers within local government are most likely to think that flexible working would benefit their employees with 59% taking this view.

The findings indicate that demand for flexible working is high and that most believe the basic technology framework is in place. 64% of managers surveyed did not consider technology a barrier and more than half of managers believed there were compelling benefits in letting their employees work remotely. These ranged from improving morale 53%, to increasing retention 41%, increasing efficiency 35% and saving money 19%. But realism prevails, and a mere 5% of workers and managers surveyed believe that the prevalence of flexible working will significantly increase over the next five years, while half don’t expect to see any changes to their team working practises.