Flexible working: the new normal?

lifestyle April 03, 2019 01:00


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New research shows that 83 per cent of workers around the world would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working and over half (54 per cent) of respondents say that having a choice of work location is more important to them than working for a prestigious company.

Research conducted by leading flexible workspace provider IWG shows that in the past 10 years, 85 per cent of businesses have introduced a flexible workspace policy, or are planning to adopt one. In light of these findings it’s unsurprising that 75 per cent of the 15,000 respondents from 80 different countries around the world believe that flexible working has become the new normal. 

However, not all businesses have been able to embrace the concept. Sixty per cent of those surveyed say that changing the organisational culture is the main barrier to implementing a flexible workspace policy, particularly within businesses that have a long-standing, nonflexible working approach. Over a third  say that fear of how flexible working may impact the overall company culture is the biggest obstacle.  

“Last year our Global Workspace Survey talked about reaching a tipping point, but what we are seeing now is that flexible working is considered by many to be the new norm for any business that is serious about productivity, agility and winning the war for top talent. Indeed, half of all our respondents claim to work outside their main office location for at least half of the week.

“Businesses around the world are facing multiple challenges including ensuring that their business is agile enough to adapt to change. Our research shows that businesses that haven’t already considered the financial and strategic benefits of flexible workspace need to do so now. Otherwise, they face being seen as out of touch, both with their competitors and with the demands of the modern workforce on what constitutes a great day at work, which means losing out on the best talent,” says Lars Wittig, vice president sales Asean of IWG.


    Attracting and retaining talent

Findings show that 71 per cent of businesses think that offering flexible working enables them to expand their talent pool. In fact, 77 per cent of businesses are adapting to improve talent retention by introducing flexible working. From an employee’s point of view, a third of people would say that flexible working is so important, they would prioritise it over having a more prestigious role (32 per cent).

Perhaps this is due to an increasing focus on work/life balance: flexible working is seen to improve this balance by 78 per cent. The findings also show that flexible workspace is seen to encourage a more inclusive working environment, with benefits for returning parents, older workers, people suffering from stress or struggling with mental health issues.


Flexibility not only makes workers happier and healthier but makes workforces more productive: 85 per cent of businesses confirm that productivity has increased in their business because of greater flexibility. What’s more, two thirds (67 per cent) of those surveyed report at least a 21 per cent improvement in productivity as a result of flexible working. 

Agility and uncertainty

In these uncertain times, it’s clear that businesses are prioritising agility and cost efficiencies. Fifty five per cent of businesses surveyed said they are looking to be more agile in 2019. Over a third of businesses are looking to expand internationally this year, and the majority of respondents (64 per cent) say that they have chosen flexible working because it accelerates speed to market in new countries. Sixty six per cent also choose flexible working to help them to scale. Flexible workspace has also been chosen by 65 per cent to reduce capital and operational expenditure. The same number of respondents have adopted flexible workspace to help manage risks, and to consolidate their portfolio.

No more commuting?  

The findings also show that two-fifths of people worldwide see commuting as the worst part of the day (40 per cent) and more than half of respondents believe that it could be obsolete in a decade (2030). Pressure has been mounting as commuters are increasingly disgruntled by their journey to work, and one in five (22 per cent) respondents would say that they are “regularly late” for work due to travel disruptions. Almost half (48 per cent) of workers spend their commute working, and as a result, nearly half (42 per cent) think that official working hours should include time spent on their journey, as this does not constitute “free time” in their day.


The new normal

For many employers and employees, flexible working is now the norm. Half of those surveyed state that they now work outside their company’s main location for at least half the working week or more, and for 70 per cent of people, a choice of work environment is a key factor when evaluating new career opportunities. Flexible working is a model that provides employers with the opportunity to increase productivity, attract talent and adapt to changing circumstances, and something that will therefore prove invaluable as we look at uncertain times ahead.