Flexible working could save staff £500 a year

Microsoft champions ‘off-peak chic’ as a positive financial by-product of flexible working.

Adopting flexible working isn't just good for employers and employees in terms of work/life balance, it can also help individuals do more with less and save money during these challenging economic times.

But bosses in the UK are still resisting efforts to make flexible working a business-friendly reality despite the fact they can also cut office overheads as a result.

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So says Microsoft, after it published the results of a study involving more than 1,000 people, which found that people could save more than 500 a year just by being able to work more flexibly one day a week.

This money can be garnered from off-peak travel and gym memberships, food and other discounts, according to Microsoft.

Less than one third of office workers in the UK are allowed to abandon the office for a day a week. In London, more than half of workers (52 per cent) are able to work flexibly for that period.

Those in Northern Ireland appear to get the worst deal, with 82 per cent of workers unable to work flexibly.

While the technology is there to enable people to work anywhere as if they were in the office, cultural barriers and skepticism around whether people are working or skiving remain, according to the research.

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"If you listen to companies that are actually doing it, you'll find out that it works and most of those fears will evaporate," said James McCarthy, Microsoft UK's mobility expert.

"It is also a learning journey. Both employers and employees need to discuss this way of working and find their own path. Doing nothing is an absolutely outdated concept."

Microsoft is often knocked but one area it does seem to have got it right is flexible working. Employees are equipped with Windows Mobile devices and laptops and home broadband is provided to boot.

"Ninety five per cent of the people at Microsoft are actually able to work from home or wherever they want. Maybe in a sense, Microsoft today is a snapshot of where companies will be two to three years from now," added McCarthy.

"We're measured by the contribution we make to the business and not how much time we spend at our desk. There's no presenteeism culture that means you have to come in half an hour early to put your jacket on the back of your chair or leave 10 minutes after your boss."

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McCarthy offered others three pieces of advise to help them move from the fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding flexibility in the workplace and to turn the theory into reality.

"Give it a try. Take action rather than just thinking about it," he said. "Think about the ways in which you reward and measure your people and lastly, from an employee point of view, they should bear in mind that this is a very personal thing in terms of how it can work for them."

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