Why are companies afraid to embrace flexible working?

Australian businesses are resisting the move towards flexible working arrangements

Australian businesses are resisting the move towards flexible working arrangements, according to a research report, which has found that flexible working as a practical reality is still a privilege for relatively few employees.

And while many leading enterprises in Australia boast of company-wide flexible working practices, this practice has not filtered down to Australia’s small-medium businesses.

Even those employers that do offer flexible working are not wholly supportive of the practice itself, according to the Citrix research report, which took in 1,024 office workers across Australia.

While 81 per cent of businesses say they offer flexible work practices, it found that 83 per cent saw a reason why they should not embrace these practices.

On the employee side, the report said 72 per cent want the opportunity to work from home, but 56 per cent are not currently able to.

“The majority of organisations do not trust their employees to be as productive at home as they do in the office”

“We know that giving workers more flexibility to carry out their roles makes them happier, more productive and more loyal to their employer, while having the potential to contribute billions to the Australian economy, yet we’re still a long way from reaching this tipping point,” said Lindsay Brown, regional director mobility apps, Citrix APAC.

“The harsh reality is the majority of organisations do not trust their employees to be as productive at home as they do in the office, even though the economic and social benefits offer a compelling argument that we can no longer ignore.”

Misconceptions can also be seen in the profile of a typical flexible worker, and the report said flexible workers are often depicted as working parents splitting work hours between the office and home or Generation Y employees, who, born digital, expect to work when and where they wish, breaking down the traditional 9-5 definition of ‘work’.

However, it is the high earning managers who have been able to adopt flexible working, with 48 per cent of managers working from home occasionally while 65 per cent of people who earn more than $130,000 per year regularly work from home.

The report also found that 19 per cent of all employees want to work from the office to be ‘seen’ working by their peers and managers, and this figure jumps to 26 per cent of workers within Generation Y.

A further 25 per cent of workers in this age group believe working from home is viewed negatively by superiors and colleagues.

And 30 per cent of workers, at organisations that did not offer flexible working, cited the inability to monitor work done at home as the reason that flexible working was not offered.

“Australia’s increasingly knowledge-based economy needs to keep modernising to compete with other progressive countries”

The research report suggested that if businesses were to embrace flexible working as a practical reality, Australia could save up to $108.7 million per week in travelling costs, and the majority of workers said they would spend at least some of their “51.4 minutes per day” commuting time working.

Furthermore, 73 per cent of people aged 55 to 69 would work more hours and stay in the workforce longer if flexible options were available, according to the research report, which suggested that this could add an additional 2.1 million potential work years to the national productivity resource equating to $134.8 billion or 1.3 per cent of Australian GDP.

A further 64 per cent of employees said that working from home would make a significant difference to their quality of life, and 74 per cent said they’d consider moving to another job or employer if they knew it offered flexible hours.

“Continuing to eschew flexible working in favour of ways of working familiar to our parents and grandparents presents serious consequences for Australia’s future,” said Brown.

“Australia’s increasingly knowledge-based economy needs to keep modernising to compete with other progressive countries.”

Image source: iStock