London, May 4: Friday, May 5, is being celebrated in Britain as “National Work From Home Day” by an organisation called Work Wise, which argues that the advance of technology has rendered redundant the daily chore of commuting to office.
Work Wise, which claims to have the support of both employers and employees, believes productivity can be boosted if only the work culture of Britain can be changed.
Philip Flaxton, the its chief executive, of Work Wise, said today: “The opportunity is there now for UK workers to take advantage of new ways of working and our aim is to significantly increase the number of people who adopt smarter working practices that benefits them and their employer.”
Working from home would help millions of employees achieve a better “work-life balance”, he added.
His sentiments will find an echo with workers who use packed London Underground trains during the rush hours. Although not as bad as commuting in, say, Mumbai or pre-Metro Calcutta, the Northern has been dubbed the “Misery Line”.
According to Flaxton, the government is not doing enough to promote “flexible working”, which, in his opinion, would reduce absenteeism and increase staff retention and productivity.
Flexible working would allow people to work from home, vary their shifts or even work for longer days to have a fifth day off.
“There is a mentality in some firms, which has been around for 100 years, that if they cannot see someone they don’t know that they are working,” he commented.
At British Telecom (BT), a third of workers have indicated they would swap a pay rise for flexible working.
Beatriz Butsana-Sita, head of marketing at BT Business, said: “The traditional 9-5, Monday to Friday routine with the same people in the same offices looks more and more out of date.”
These days there is always an Indian angle to every story.
BT’s chairman Sir Christopher Bland told a conference in London that “smarter” working practices had to be adopted so that Britain could fend off the “tiger economies” of India and China.
The Royal Automobile Club, which is called out to assist motorists who break down, predicted that flexible working would cut the worst peak traffic by up to 10 per cent within five years.
Minister for Women Meg Munn told the same conference: “Smarter working should be integral in a modern economy. It enables us to lead more fulfilled lives, having greater choice about how we balance our work with our family commitments.”
Her opinion was shared by the employers’ organisation, the Confederation of British Industry, whose director-general, Sir Digby Jones, said: “Flexible, smarter working is here to stay. Nine out of 10 requests from staff to work flexibly have been accepted by employers and the UK leads the rest of Europe in numbers of part-time workers. New technologies will help more people in the future to ‘telework’ from home or on the move.”
A critical comment came from Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, who said: “The attitude of employers is the biggest barrier we face to a better work/life balance. Unfortunately, too few employers have yet to grasp the concept that flexible working not only makes for sound business sense but is also good news for overworked individuals.”