In 2015 when I joined the Work Foundation, one of the first things I worked on with my colleagues here was a study to determine where UK businesses were at in terms of reaching a ‘Tipping Point’ of mobile working. So it was good to see the study continuing to generate a lot of interest when last week I presented the findings to an audience of occupational therapists attending a joint study day organised by the Vocational Rehabilitation Association and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists’ Specialist Section on Work.

Our research found we are very close to a ‘tipping point’ – where having the opportunity to work away from the office becomes more commonplace for employees and is deployed as standard by their employers, and that the technology exists for most jobs to be carried out with at least an element of flexibility. The research led to the proposal of a ‘formula’ for good work and flexible working, which identifies four reasons why organisations should take steps to develop and implement working anywhere policies with their employees:

  • Increased productivity – one of the biggest drivers for mobile working; there is evidence that about £12 billion could be gained from its wider extension.
  • Improved employee wellbeing – another big driver of driver of mobile working; reduced community times are associated with positive health outcomes, and a CIPD survey found a massive drop in absenteeism after the introduction of flexible working.
  • Talent attraction and retention – demand for mobile working is high amongst all sorts of workers, but Timewise found just 6% of jobs were advertised as suitable for flexible working.
  • Reduction in accommodation costs – Vodafone suggests about £34 billion could be saved by freeing up desk space.

But in spite of these benefits, it is clear that barriers persist to wholescale take up. It is also evident that take up is especially low in some sectors, and for people in certain roles. In our research we offer three key elements to successfully overcoming these barriers and implementing a strategy for smart working: leadership, people policies, and careful planning.

You can read about our recommendations for success by downloading a copy of the report Working Anywhere from our website.

Our research found we are very close to a ‘tipping point’ – where having the opportunity to work away from the office becomes more commonplace for employees and is deployed as standard by their employers, and that the technology exists for most jobs to be carried out with at least an element of flexibility. The research led to the proposal of a ‘formula’ for good work and flexible working, which identifies four reasons why organisations should take steps to develop and implement working anywhere policies with their employees:

  • Increased productivity – one of the biggest drivers for mobile working; there is evidence that about £12 billion could be gained from its wider extension.
  • Improved employee wellbeing – another big driver of mobile working; reduced community times are associated with positive health outcomes, and a CIPD survey found a massive drop in absenteeism after the introduction of flexible working.
  • Talent attraction and retention – demand for mobile working is high amongst all sorts of workers, but Timewise found just 6% of jobs were advertised as suitable for flexible working.
  • Reduction in accommodation costs – Vodafone suggests about £34 billion could be saved by freeing up desk space.

But in spite of these benefits, it is clear that barriers persist to wholescale take up. It is also evident that take up is especially low in some sectors, and for people in certain roles. In our research we offer three key elements to successfully overcoming these barriers and implementing a strategy for smart working: leadership, people policies, and careful planning.


About the author

Helen Sheldon, Researcher at the Work Foundation