Flexible working can boost job markets across Europe research reveals

Workers across Europe and Russia believe that flexible working has a profound effect on levels of employment

Greater flexibility is seen as a way to boost productivity and retain talented staff within organisations. The findings come from independent research commissioned by Avaya from research consultancy Dynamic Markets. ‘Flexible Working 2009’ reflects the attitudes of more than 3,500 workers across France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia and the UK.

The belief that flexible working practices can boost job markets is widespread but most prevalent in Russia (91 per cent), Spain (87 per cent) and the UK (88 per cent). On a microeconomic level, 35 per cent of respondents think flexible workers save their employer money from not being in the office or on-site full-time.

Flexible workers are regarded as happier (67 per cent) and half feel they are more productive, while almost as many (46 per cent) think that they work harder during the time they work. UK workers in particular equate flexibility with loyalty – with 52 per cent believing that flexible workers are more loyal.

Michael Bayer, Avaya president of field operations, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA said): “It would be simplistic to suggest that flexible working is a silver bullet for European countries tackling unemployment, and the faith that so many people have in it to create jobs and boost economies is surprising. However, I do believe the current downturn will encourage employers think about how to adopt a smart workforce approach, using flexibility as a practical and cost effective way of retaining talented staff who need to balance other commitments.” 

While 95 per cent of all those surveyed attributed at least one of these positive qualities – happiness, productivity and working hard – to flexible working, the key factors felt to be motivators for employers to implement it were increased productivity (59 per cent) and the desire to keep talented workers with family commitments in work (59 per cent). Half of those surveyed see cost benefits to the employer as a key driver, however, a significant portion (34 per cent) think that seeing how successful schemes at other companies have been will be a factor.

 “This is not just a case of those who have already embraced flexible working singing its praises – we found there is very little difference in opinion between employees who work flexibly and those who do not, in terms of how they view the benefits,” added Bayer. “There is sometimes a perception that management can be reluctant to implement flexible working practices because of trust issues. In fact it seems 55% of senior managers believe flexible-working employees are more productive and 52% think they work harder.”

Legislation may also prove to be a significant factor in the uptake of flexible working. Among those who currently do not work on a flexible basis, 61 per cent would insist on it if flexible working rights were introduced to their country in the form of new legislation – particularly parents (69 per cent) and those expecting their first child (76 per cent).

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