Work patterns are changing rapidly. Work is becoming more flexible in terms of location, timing and a multitude of other factors causing new work practices to emerge. With changing labour markets and social responsibilities, employers and employees are seeking more flexible approaches in how, when and where they work. Businesses and organisations that are responding to this change are benefiting in many ways - and so are their employees.
It is recognised that the UK workforce is now among the hardest working in the world. Today, this results in the UK's average working week being among the highest in Europe. Three-quarters of employees regularly work overtime, although of those only a third are rewarded with extra pay or time off in lieu. One in six employees works more than 60 hours a week, as opposed to one in eight in 2000. According to a TUC analysis of official figures, nearly five million employees worked on average an extra day a week in unpaid overtime in 2005.
Employees now has an ever-widening range of choices in designing a work life balance that meets their specific work and family commitments. With this freedom comes the necessity to manage their careers more carefully and keep informed of the smarter working practices that can benefit business, the employee and society as a whole.
- Motivated workforce - in a DTI Work Life Balance Survey in 2003, 75% of companies introducing these work practices said they had a more committed and motivated workforce and BT has recorded savings of �52m a year after changing its work patterns.
- Reduced staff turnover - according to the DTI Work Life Balance Survey 2003, 60% of companies surveyed reported reduced turnover of employees. When BT introduced flexible working practices leaver levels fell to their lowest.
- Reduced absences for sickness - currently costing UK business �12.25 billion a year.
- Infrastructure cost savings - savings in real estate and office costs and 24/7 operations can be introduced as a result of flexible working.
- Social Responsibility - working smarter practices will assist groups that have traditionally found work difficult, such as single parents and those with disabilities. When BT introduced smarter working practices, the number of working mothers returning to work after maternity leave increased to 99 per cent. There are over one million disabled people who want to work but don't have a job. (Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey, summer 2003).
- Less stress - At present one in six workers work over 60 hours a week compared to one in eight in 2000 according to the DTI. This leads to mental health and stress problems which the CBI states costs UK business �5 billion a year. In a typical year, 28 million working days are lost through stress.
- Stronger family units - with the Work Wise UK initiative, family responsibilities will be better fulfilled as people arrange work to suit individual domestic needs. Being a good parent and a good employee will no longer be conflicting aims.
- Less road congestion - heavy traffic on the roads of the UK is damaging the efficiency and competitiveness of British business. UK commuters have the longest journeys into work in Europe at an average of 45 minutes - up from 24 minutes, 10 years ago - and according to the RAC 60% of cars on UK roads have only occupant who is primarily a commuter or business traveller. Even a 10 per cent fall in the number of people travelling would have a significant effect upon congestion levels on the roads and over-crowding problems on public transport. Congestion is marginal: reduce the volume by a small amount below the critical saturation point, and the traffic flows.
- Reduced pollution - introducing more home and flexible working is one of the primary ways in which to reduce direct air pollution and reduce the amount of fuel energy used. The amount of vehicle emissions will also fall because less number of vehicles will be sitting in traffic. According to the Road Users Alliance a car travelling at crawling speed generates over 500g/km of carbon dioxide. At 100kph this falls to around 175g/km.