Working 9-5: Not a way to make a living?

National Work from Home Day and Work Wise Week is upon us, but what's the big deal about flexible working and why should companies care?

According to the giant, having this flexibility boosts productivity by 20 per cent and adds between 6 million and 7 million of value to the company's bottom line. So it's not just touchy-feely stuff to do with work/life balance, it's cold, hard cash. What more of a business case could the cheque-heads need?

Tech is ready

So what's holding businesses back from embracing flexibility? The technology is clearly readily available and proven, so what barriers remain?

"It's hard to say exactly, however, scepticism about flexibility often comes down to old fashioned ideas of not trusting employees and 'face time' in the office," says the BT spokesman. "We would say, in our experience, employees will repay the faith you place in them to do a good job."

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Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that the old excuses of unproven technology and security risks are often used as scapegoats for a more deep-rooted fear of flexible working.

Many company cultures still subscribe to the 'bums on seats' theory of management, suggesting you're only really doing your job if you can be seen from the corner of your manager's eye. Others believe your productivity should be measured by your output - meaning it's not where you sit, but what you do that counts.

Time to get flexible

Whichever side of the fence you reside on, it's clear businesses do need to evolve as the times they are a-changing.

"The world of work as we know it now will not be the world of work in five years' time," says Dr Glenda Stone, chief executive of Aurora, in the context of how greater flexibility in the workplace could help boost the number of women entering the industry. "It will be very, very different. It will be far more flexible, far more diverse and far more progressive and innovative in the way work works."

No-one wants to force businesses - or employees for that matter - into flexible working practices if they're not ready or it's not practical for their business model.

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Conversely, if employers dawdle for too long, they may find they have little choice as they get swept up in the tide of employees revolting and defecting to companies that do offer flexibility.

It used to be benefits such as sick pay, holiday allowance, pension and private healthcare that got people's professional juices flowing. In the future, flexibility will be the deal breaker. In fact, the flexible working revolution has already started.

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