Businesses are failing to reap the rewards of increased productivity and employee well-being resulting from new, modern approaches to working flexibly, according to new research by O2.

One year on from O2’s Olympic flexible working pilot, the mobile operator’s study of more than 400 businesses and 2,000 employees reveals that whilst staff are ready to embrace new ways of working and understand the benefits, it is employers who are holding them back.

  • Three quarters (75%) admit they are most productive when they can change when and where they work and one in ten (11%) even rate flexi-working as a more important benefit than their holiday allowance and salary.
  • More than three quarters (77%) of employers say that flexible working is actively encouraged across their organisation but less than a fifth (19%) of staff say their company encourages them to work flexibly.

The research also highlights a clear disconnect in what businesses say and do, and employee perceptions of the policies and support that are in place to help them:

  • Businesses are failing to effectively communicate their flexible working policies to staff: 56% of employers state they have a clear flexible working policy versus just 30% of employees who agree
  • Employees aren’t aware of the tools and technology available to them to work remotely: 54% of employers say they give their staff the tools and technology to work remotely, while just one third of employees agree
  • Managers don’t lead by example: 70% of managers say 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
  • Men are more likely to change the way they work than women: 30% more men than women work outside of the usual nine to five

O2 Business Director, Ben Dowd, commented:

“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. 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.”

O2 argues that by creating a single massive moment of reappraisal that effectively shocks the business into action, it is possible to significantly alter the flexible working culture within an organisation.

Last year O2 took this approach with its flexible working pilot and one year on, more than one third of employees have actively changed their work behaviour:

  • Increased savings and improved efficiencies: In one month O2 staff saved 100,000 miles of commuting, 30 tonnes of CO2, and £20,000 in fuel – and productivity when flexi-working has doubled
  •  Lasting legacy: 85% of O2 employees say they will keep flexi-working and 40% more employees now flexi-work more than one a week

Dowd continued: “The changes we’ve seen in our own workforce since our pilot speak for themselves. With the right mix of technology, policy and education, Britain’s workforce can embrace the opportunities that flexible working can bring in helping them shape their own definition of the 9 to 5.”


About the research:
The research was conducted by specialist research agency ResearchBods. The total sample size was 2000 UK office workers and 400 office managers, between the ages of 16 and 75. Fieldwork into the views was undertaken between 12th and 17th February, 2013.

Journalists can contact the Virgin Media O2 press office on: 01753 565656
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