Flexible Working – What Does it Mean?
Office Chairs UK, 16/12/2015
These days a lot of people talk about flexible working or refer to flexible working hours. But in an ever-changing workplace, it is not always clear exactly what we mean when we talk about the term. For the last quarter of a century, the workplace has been rapidly changing to adapt to the needs of modern society, which also means there has been a change in the way we work.
Since such changes started taking place we have been talking about new ways to work and there has been the constant debate on how to maintain effectiveness and efficiency in the workplace. Opinion is often divided about how to make the most out of flexible working, but what does it all mean?
The idea of flexible working is, not surprisingly, closely linked with the birth of the internet and rapid growth in technology. In the early 1990s laptops became commercially viable and the UKs first text message was sent in 1992. It soon became apparent that the workplace was about to change and people started to realise that there could be huge benefits for employers and workers alike.
During the early stages of the changing workplace, there were a lot of bold predictions. Many believed that we would all soon be working from home and that the office would soon die out. A number of new terms and vocabulary also emerged to explain these new changes, such as teleworking, hot-desking and road warrior. There was even a televillage created in Wales by a man named Ashley Dobbs, specifically aimed at providing a home for armies of telecommuters. By 2000, the scheme had gone bust, however.
But in many ways a lot of the ideas that people had about how we would be working it today’s society were right. Working from home continues to be a popular choice to this day and although the office hasn’t quite died out just yet, there have been massive changes to the workplace. When thinking about flexible working it is important to consider where, how and why we work to determine how these factors could be improved. These are never easy questions to answer though which is why companies often find themselves wondering what the best solution is. The other issue with this is that the workplace is still changing, technology continues to move forward and there are always alternative solutions to the traditional working environment.
Even the current thinking about what flexible working means can often seem outdated. A recent report into Work Life Balance defined the term of flexible working to things like part-time working, reduced hours, job share and flexitime. Although these terms do reflect a number of aspects that we would associate with the modern workplace, they are a little restrictive when it comes to defining what we mean by flexible working. This is largely due to the fact that the work many people do cannot be defined by working hours. It has become commonplace for a number of companies and organisations to see work as being defined by its outputs and not the time spent on it. It is commonplace for some people to work constantly changing hours depending on their workload.
In recent years there has also been huge growth in the amount of people who are self-employed, along with those who work freelance. In a recent report from the Office for National Statistics, it is thought that as many as 15% of the UK workforce are now self-employed. This means that people aren’t working from home as an alternative to going into an office for an employer. For these people there is no office and there is no employer. This shows just how broad flexible working really is in the modern working world. Flexible working for those in larger organisations has also changed over the years. Many people now work in the evening, on their way to work, in cafés and public space or even on client premises. It is thought that around 97% of UK organisations now offer some form of flexible working. This only indicates the fact that it is no longer an alternative to the traditional time and place of the office environment, but that nearly every workplace environment is now flexible.