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Flexible working can “modernise” a company

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Employee wellbeing and a more motivated workforce can be boosted by incentives such as flexible working and shared parental leave.

But first, working cultures and stereotypes surrounding traditional ways of working must be challenged, according to employment relations minister Jo Swinson.

The minister told a briefing yesterday (April 30th) that such measures are two key ways in which to promote a better working environment in shared office spaces, HR Magazine reports. By adopting such practices, staff members are less likely to be absent and will also be generally happier, she said.

“We need to change working cultures to reflect a modern workforce. We are still stuck in the 1950s, all these old stereotypes are a thing of the past,” Ms Swinson added.

However, before employers and employees can enjoy the benefits associated with flexible working, changing attitudes and smarter working policies are essential, according to the minister.

For example, a culture of presenteeism means that negative attitudes to flexible working stem from the outdated view that staff members can only be productive when in a physical work environment.

Another reason why many companies are failing to embrace more relaxed working policies has largely been attributed to management culture and style. Perhaps some employers prefer to have staff members in the office where they can keep an eye on them.

Also speaking at the briefing was Anne Sharp, the chief executive of employment relations body Acas, who echoed Ms Swinson’s opinion. She said the proposals present a “great opportunity” for businesses to get the most out of their workforce as well as being able to recruit and retain the most talented employees.

“Flexible working is about modernising the workforce,” Ms Sharp said. “It used to be seen as a perk and for years companies used to say ‘it will work there but not in my company’, but we’ve seen it can work.”

Changes to working patterns are scheduled to come into force in 2014 for the extended right for employees to ask for flexible working and a company will have to consider every request.