Almost nine in ten (87%) Scottish business leaders surveyed who offer flexible working say it has had a positive impact on their business, according to new research by Family Friendly Working Scotland to mark the launch of National Work Life Week (Oct 7-11).

The figures from a YouGov poll of more than 250 Scottish senior business decision makers demonstrate clear business benefits from offering flexibility – putting paid to the myth that flexible working is only a ‘favour’ to help employees in special circumstances.

Half (50%) of business leaders said offering flexible working has had a ‘very positive’ impact on the business overall and 38 per cent said it had a ‘fairly positive’ impact. Only two per cent felt it had any negative effect.

Senior Scottish business leaders surveyed who offer flexibility to employees said it had led to the following business benefits:

  • Increased productivity among employees – 37%
  • Reduced business costs, such as office space or recruitment and training – 26%
  • Increased profit – 17%
  • Better staff retention – 40%
  • Better recruitment of key talent – 24%
  • Better employee mental health and wellbeing – 40%
  • Reduced staff sickness absence – 30%
  • Increased equality and diversity among employees – 27%
  • Better employee engagement – 45%
  • Improved work life balance across the business – 55%

More than two thirds (68%) of Scottish business leaders surveyed reported good working practices around flexible working, with 43 per cent saying their business had a very flexible working culture and that flexible working was accepted as the norm. While a quarter (25%) said they had some really good practices in place for flexible working and many people had the opportunity to work flexibly. As a minimum, organisations are legally required to consider requests for flexible working from employees who have been employed at least 26 weeks.

A separate survey of Scottish workers shows more than half (53%) work flexibly and a further fifth (19%) don’t and would like to. When asked about the benefits of working flexibly, the responses by Scots who work flexibly mirrored those by business leaders.

  • 52% said they are more productive at work
  • 28% said they are off sick less
  • 46% are more loyal to their employer
  • 58% said they are happier
  • 54% feel they have better mental health and wellbeing
  • 69% said flexible working has improved their work life balance

Nikki Slowey, co-director at Family Friendly Working Scotland, which is part of the UK work life balance charity Working Families, said: “Flexible working is good for business. The fact we’re hearing this from business leaders themselves proves flexibility is not a favour to employees in special circumstances, it genuinely makes good business sense.

“There’s still a huge unmet demand for flexible working and the desire for flexibility is universal across gender, age, and whether or not someone is a parent. We hope employers and workers are encouraged by these figures and use National Work Life Week to explore how they can incorporate more flexibility to improve work life balance and boost the business.”

Family Friendly Working Scotland is funded and supported by the Scottish Government.

Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn said: “The Scottish Government is working with employers to encourage flexible, agile and inclusive workplaces that benefit all employees.

“As this research shows, offering flexible working practices benefits businesses as it enhances staff retention and recruitment and can help attract an under-utilised pool of talent into our labour market. It also helps tackle the gender pay gap and ultimately benefits our economy and society as a whole.”

Barclays, a significant employer in Scotland, encourages employees to work flexibly through its dynamic working programme.

Scott Stewart, Head of Barclays Scotland, said: “Our dynamic working strategy gives us more motivated, talented and diverse employees who provide a better service to our clients. We attract and retain key talent because they like how we work. Our staff surveys also show that colleagues who work dynamically score an average 12 percentage points higher across a range of engagement, satisfaction and productivity metrics, so it really does make a difference.”

Pursuit Marketing, which has headquarters in Glasgow and employs 180 people, introduced a four-day week on full pay in 2016. Director Lorraine Gray, said: “Our productivity – based on clearly defined monthly KPIs – increased by 37 per cent at first and has now settled at 30 per cent, even after three years.

“We don’t spend any money on recruitment now. We’ve taken on around 90 people in the last three years and it used to cost around £4,000 in agency fees to recruit a basic telemarketer, so we’ve saved a considerable sum just from recruitment. We’re growing rapidly and being honest, practical and flexible with our staff is what’s driving our success.”

Almost of third (31%) of Scottish senior business decision makers surveyed predict an increase in the proportion of employees working flexibly in five years’ time. This includes nearly one in ten (9%) who believe there will be a large increase.

The most common forms of flexible working that Scottish senior business decision makers said were available to employees were:

  • Working from home – 53%
  • Time away for personal appointments – 48%
  • Informal or ad-hoc adjustments such as leaving early and working from home – 41%
  • Part time hours – 39%
  • Flexitime – allowing employees to work a set number of hours but with a choice over the start and finish times – 38%

National Work Life Week is an annual campaign by UK work life balance charity Working Families and Family Friendly Working Scotland – the charity’s Scottish arm – to get employers and employees talking about wellbeing at work and work life fit. It’s an opportunity for employers to show their employees and potential candidates, how their organisation is striving for a family friendly and flexible working culture.