Is flexible working in Europe truly flexible?

October 13, 2017
Is flexible working in Europe truly flexible?

By Duncan Greenwood, Vice President, End User Computing, VMware EMEA

Despite predictions of remote working being the future, why is it not the norm? Initial promises of working nine to five coming to an end, now feel short lived. In an era where we are surrounded and often immersed in technology, making communication and access to information easier than ever before, why are cars still stuck in daily traffic jams on a morning commute, almost predictably across cities in Europe?

However, we are seeing many companies are taking the positive steps to enable its employees to work more flexibly. Although whilst many organisations and its staff will benefit from flexible working, is this utopia causing friction between the two?

Flexible working was intended as a way to complete much of the same work from a different location or different times through better comfort, rather than an increased number of hours worked. But is there a risk that employees are simply seen as being more contactable and ‘mobile’ and eventually find it hard to switch off?

Across Europe, different policies and approaches to adopting a flexible working environment is taken. At the beginning of this year in France, to curb the modern-day scourge of compulsive out-of-hours email checking, it was introduced that organisations with over 50 workers are required to negotiate ‘right to disconnect’ times with their employees – when they are not needed to be on email.

Across the border in Germany, 38% of employees often work flexibly with a further 32% working flexibly from time to time[1]. Volkswagen in Germany is often used as an example of successful implementing flexible working policies by capping after-work emails for employees with company-issued phones between certain times of the day.

At the other end of the scale, in the UK, every employer has to consider requests from all employees after 26 weeks of service – although these requests can be rejected. Perhaps then, it comes as no surprise that UK organisations lag behind many of their European counterparts, retaining a culture of fixed working hours and an emphasis on ‘face time’ within an office setting.

However, the UK is changing with the Smarter Working Initiative (SMI) aiming to get over 200,000 people from 200 companies to be offered the option to work flexibly. In July 2017, The SMI was encouraging business leaders to sign up to this initiative – motivating people to work in a situation that suits them best, rather than being restricted to an office desk.

If flexible working is not at the top of your agenda, it’s worth bearing in mind the consequences to your talent pool if you do not offer these policies. According to a report by Deloite, 1 in 10 graduates view flexible working as the most important factor in picking a place of work. It can be a great tool to help attract and retain talent, with employees, particularly the younger generation, wanting to know that they have an option to work in a way that suits them.

In reality, to enable flexible working, organisations need to ensure they have the foundation that supports efforts from across the enterprise. At a practical level, a technology platform is needed that has embedded protection and the ability to scale as the organisation grows.

Technology has enabled flexible working, but it’s up to businesses to ensure they make the most of it to reap the rewards.

[1] http://www.polycom.com/content/dam/polycom/common/documents/whitepapers/changing-needs-of-the-workplace-whitepaper-enus.pdf


 
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