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Mobile working will be the rule, not the exception by 2020, report says

Mobile working in the UK is on the verge of a 'tipping point' - when it will be more common to work away from the office, and desk-based working will be the exception rather than the rule.

In 2017, more than half of organisations in the UK are likely to have adopted flexible working policies, and more than 70 per cent will have followed suit by 2020, according to a report from the Work Foundation at Lancaster University.

Addressing problems with mobile working

Despite these predictions for the rapid rise of mobile working, around a quarter of the 500 managers surveyed claimed that all the work in their organisation was currently carried out there.

The report said that organisational culture was pivotal in addressing barriers to mobile working, particularly for those who were worried about a fall in productivity or employees taking advantage of flexibility.

If the full benefits of flexible working are to be realised - including increased productivity, improved employee wellbeing, better talent attraction and retention, and reduced accommodation costs overheads - other issues also need to be tackled, the report said.

For example, almost half of managers (45 per cent) said that mobile working made them work longer hours, and a quarter (24 per cent) said that it made them feel disconnected from their team.

But many valued mobile working, noting how it enabled them to get more done (54 per cent); made them feel trusted (49 per cent); improved work-life balance (46 per cent); made them feel empowered (41 per cent); and reduced their travel time (37 per cent).

Keys to implementation

Effective mobile working arrangements are most likely, it said, when the benefits to the organisation and individual are aligned, and when they are enabled with sensitivity to employee needs, rather than enforced.

To garner the benefits and avoid the downfalls, the report suggested three keys to successful implementation:

  1. Leadership. Senior management should lead by example, build trust and effect cultural change so that performance is measured on output rather than visibility.
  2. Policies. Mobile working would need to be supported by transparent policies agreed with staff, with new approaches to performance management focusing on 'outputs and outcomes and not presenteeism and hours worked'.
  3. Planning. Implementation of new technology to facilitate mobile working takes careful planning, with testing and trialling rather than blanket adoption.

Dr Cathy Garner, director of Lancaster University's Work Foundation and report author, said, 'The evidence is showing a clear trend towards a more flexible way of working in the UK as the hurdles are overcome by fresh innovations in technology and people management.

'We believe that employees and their employers will benefit from the "virtuous circle" created, whereby improved job design, work organisation and trusting relationships lead to healthier, happier and more productive workplaces.'

Acas publications and services

Extensive advice for employers on flexible working and homeworking is given in the Advisory booklet - Flexible working and work-life balance and pdf icon Homeworking - a guide for employers and employees [272kb].

Acas experts can visit your workplace and help you develop effective flexible-working policies; see Parents and carers: how Acas can help or call the customer services team on 0300 123 1150 for details.

Acas also runs practical training courses on Flexible working, Work/life balance, including developing family-friendly policies in the workplace, Skills for supervisors and Performance management.

Acas' information on Building Productivity in the UK includes practical advice and features the insights of leading voices, as well as the dedicated Acas Productivity Tool, which helps employers identify where they can do more to get the best from their staff.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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