O2 has found that there is a huge disconnect between what employers believe their flexible working policies are, and what options employees perceive are available to them.
The telco’s study of more than 400 businesses and 2,000 employees comes a year after its high profile flexible working pilot, which asked that its entire staff to work from home for one day in preparation for disruption that may have occurred during the London 2012 Olympic Games.
For example, the research found that 77% of employers believe that flexible working is actively encouraged across their organisation, but just 19% of staff say that their company encourages them to work flexibly.
Similarly, 56% of employers state that they have a clear flexible working policy in place, versus just 30% of employees who agree.
Also, some 70% of managers say that they try to set an example by frequently working from home or changing their working hours, but only 18% of employees agree that this is the case.
Evolution in behaviour
It appears that technology to enable flexible working is also a sticking point for employees, where just a third said that they were provided with the tools to enable them to work remotely. However, 54% of employers believe that the incorrect technology is provided.
The research also stated that 30% more men than women work outside the usual nine to five.
“Just six months since Britain’s biggest flexible working opportunity, the Olympics, it’s shocking that less than one fifth of people feel they are encouraged to work flexibly,” said O2 business director Ben Dowd.
“Businesses must sit up and take notice of this critical evolution in employee behaviour and create a business culture equipped to support it. Talking about it simply isn’t enough. To create a truly flexible working culture, actions speak louder than words.”
The O2 study found that three quarters of employees believe they are most productive when they can change when and where they work, and one in ten even rate flexi-working as a more important benefit than their holiday allowance and salary.
O2’s working from home experiment found that 88% of its staff are just as productive working remotely, while a third claimed that they actually got more work done when they weren’t in the office.
Some 3,000 employees based at O2’s head office in Slough took part in a pilot that required them to work from home for one day.
In preparation, O2 upgraded its virtual private network (VPN) as well as its network infrastructure, which saw a 155% increase in users on the day, and a 110% increase in VPN data sent across the network.
The company automatically redirected traffic between servers in the north and south of its offices to ensure that the load was spread efficiently and that there were no local bottlenecks.
Since the pilot, 85% of O2 employees say they will keep flexi-working and 40% of employees now flexi-work more than once a week.