Editor Ian Hunter looks at two contrasting sets of statistics regarding the attitudes towards homeworking in the UK and finds there is still much to be done in terms of technology and company attitudes.
According to some, the ability to work from home has never been better for those that strive to get the work life balance right for themselves. However, as my artic truck driving mate Andy says, ‘Yeah, right!’
According to a recent survey by Siemens Enterprise Communications, only a quarter (26%) of attendees at a recent exhibition now spend five days a week in the office. This is in stark contrast to five years ago when more than half (57%) spent the entire week in the office. At the other end of the scale the number of people spending less than one day a week in the office has doubled from 7% five years ago to 15% today.
In addition to these results, almost half (44%) selected all options when questioned why mobility was so important to business. These answers included; maximising employee productivity, improving business processes and response times, enabling consistent access to real-time information and people, and supporting new ways of working.
Trevor Connell, Managing Director, Siemens Enterprise Communications said: “As is evident from the research, the focus is shifting to employees in terms of mobility. By enabling the ‘Anywhere Worker’ with tools that are easy and intuitive to use productivity can be increased whether an employee is in the office five days a week or one. In order to do this, businesses need to embrace ‘enterprise-calibre’ consumer technology in the communications mix and put the emphasis on what the user wants to do their job.”
Despite this recognition that mobility is key, many businesses still don’t have the correct infrastructure and processes in place to support employees. Respondents stated that the biggest challenge when it comes to accessing the right people in the organisation is not being able to reach them when they are in a different location (37%). Knowing the availability and location of staff was also cited as a challenge.
However, according to another recent survey by Workingmums.co.uk it seems that a lot od dads are still reluctant to take up flexible working.
This survey revealed that only 20% of working mums’ partners work flexibly despite the fact that legislation on flexible working applies equally to them.
Four per cent of partners worked part time and 16% had some other kind of flexible working arrangement, according to the survey of over 2,000 working mums.
The figures show that it is still overwhelmingly women who are seeking flexible working in order to balance family and work responsibilities despite moves to encourage shared parenting and despite the fact that over 35% are the main breadwinner (up 5% on last year).
Flexible working was the most important factor helping women get back to work after maternity leave or a career break and a lack of new flexible jobs was the single biggest barrier they faced.
That was even though 62% were willing to accept a less well paid job in return for more flexibility. Indeed, 58% were earning less than they did before they had children.
Childcare was still another major barrier for women returning to work after a career break. Some 59% of working mums said childcare costs were a factor in stopping them going back to work. Many were getting around the problem by asking their own parents to look after their children. Some 48% used grandparents for childcare, up 5% on last year.
The survey shows the career penalty women are paying by not going back to work. Some 53% of those who had taken a career break to bring up children said they could not find a job in their field. Only 10% found a job in their field quite easily.
The economic recession had also had an impact. Some 40% of mums said they had gone back to work earlier than expected because of cuts and the rising cost of living. And 54% thought employers were discriminating more against mums in the current economic climate. Some 29% of those who had been made redundant recently said that they felt it was linked either to their pregnancy, maternity leave or being a working mum.
The survey also asked women about whether they had considered setting up their own business to get greater flexibility. Sixty-two per cent had done so with 29% saying they were working on a business plan and were in the early stages of setting up a business. The biggest barrier they faced was access to funding.
Other findings included:
56% of working mums were looking for part-time jobs, but asked what kind of flexibility they rated very important 77% said flexi hours, compared with 61% for part-time hours
Asked what made for a family friendly employer the majority said offering full-time flexible jobs
Asked what would encourage them to work full time, 76% said homeworking part of the time
43% of working mums said they would consider sharing their maternity leave with their partner
Most working mums who went back after maternity leave did so on a part-time basis (55%)
29% described their employer as not very flexible or inflexible, but the majority said their employer was flexible, with 12% describing them as extremely flexible. The number describing their job as flexible, very flexible or extremely flexible was up 2% on last year.
Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, commented, “Our survey shows that, while the majority of women are happy with the flexible working they have, there are still a significant number working for employers who seem resistant to new ways of working. Although we welcome the Government’s recent announcement on extending flexible working and enabling shared parenting, our survey shows there is still a long way to go to change our work culture so that both employers and employees benefit from smarter working practices. This has to begin with greater emphasis on spreading good practice from those employers who can see the advantages in terms of higher retention rates, greater productivity, happier staff and reduced overheads.”
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