Why Are Employers Blind To Flexible Working?

2nd June 2016

There are over 1.5 million flexible working employees in the UK today. The number of workers who say they are working out of the office has increased by almost a fifth over the past decade. New research from the Trade Union Centre (TUC) found that 1.52 million employees classed themselves as working from home in 2015, up over 240,000 on 2005 figures. Adopting a flexible working model offers businesses a number of advantages.

Benefits of Flexible Working

flexible working

Demonstrating to your staff that you trust them enough not go Big Brother on them is empowering. As far as employee engagement and job satisfaction goes, there is nothing better than demonstrating a tangible understanding of trust through flexible working. This empowerment is attractive to jobseekers and shows your business to be inclusive, forward-thinking and a great place to work.

Allowing remote working puts more money in your employees’ pockets. A study of 2,000 workers commissioned by Quidco.com in 2013 found that on average, commuting to work costs employees an average of £161 every month. By offering flexible working, potential head hunters who want your staff will have a hard time offering an extra £2000 a year if they don’t also offer flexible working.

While flexible workers might not work the 9-5, 83% of businesses agree that adopting flexible working had resulted in improvements in productivity. Without having to commute to work, employees tend to start work earlier and continue to pick up emails and phone calls in the evening.

Despite the many advantages of flexible working, less and 9% of vacancies for well paid jobs even offer flexible working. Analysis of more than 5m job adverts by Timewise found that little progress has been made in the past year on offering flexible working to jobseekers, despite warnings to employers, who face skills shortages, that they are failing to tap into a large pool of potential workers.

But why is this?

Disadvantages of Flexible Working

Many senior employers are too rigid in their thinking when it comes to staff management. There is distrust between the employer and the employee. Managers assume that if they are unsupervised, staff will slack off and not do any work. This kind of outdated assumption goes back to the industrial age of employing large numbers of low-skilled workers back when employee engagement didn’t exist.

In a digital age, workers are self-motivated, committed to their work and take pride in what they do. The distrust from senior employers is more an indictment of their lack of flexibility than the inherent distrustful nature of the people they employee. After all, do you not trust your staff?


Some employees worry that having workers separated all the time will destroy the sense of a company culture. Many businesses were founded on the power of a single, effective team that would collaborate and succeed together. After all, we’ve all had moments when great ideas are born by the water cooler or in the break room. Some think that having flexible employees working remotely means that flashes of insight like that will cease to occur and the sense of a united team will be lost.

Some businesses see the cost of adopting a flexible working model as too high. In order for a flexible working model to be effective, businesses need to be properly equipped.

A survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI, found that 52% of workers agreed that it was “necessary to be present in your place of work”. However, just 19% of bosses agreed with the same statement, with the remaining 81% feeling more empowered to complete their work from anywhere.

The reason for this can be found in the technology. Cloud computing, smart devices and more powerful personal technology are needed to fully realise a completely flexible working model. All staff need to be equipped to do their job anywhere. For businesses to truly adopt this model, an investment in technology may be required.

Besides technology, businesses need to adopt a different management style. Establishing ‘core working hours’ and effective lines of communication with staff is essential for keeping them on task.

Flexible Working Needs Flexible Payroll

Flexible working also presents challenges for a business’s payroll function. With employees potentially anywhere on Earth and working hours outside the 9-5, keeping accurate records is vital to providing accurate pay. Businesses need a payroll function that is flexible and able mitigate the risk overpayments and other errors.

When employees are working a 9-5, a quick look at the payroll run could reveal an error. When businesses a flexible working model, mistakes become harder to notice.

Payroll teams need to make sure that employee working hours are accurately recorded. The best way is to record time worked by the hour. This will give the payroll team reassurance that their data is as accurate as possible.

Above all, businesses need a payroll solution that’s fit for purpose. As more and more businesses make the move to a flexible working models, a seamless and accurate payroll solution, whether in-house or outsourced, is more important than ever. Failure to effectively track remote workers’ hours will lead to confusion, over payment, and even more work for payroll teams.