Nine out of ten say flexible working boosts productivity

New data reveals that flexible and remote working are more likely to motivate staff and ultimately increase workplace productivity than financial incentives.

A study of UK businesses and employees by HSBC  found that nine in ten employees (89%) consider flexible working to be the biggest motivator to their productivity levels within the workplace – a view shared equally among male and female employees (87% and 90% respectively) – and more so than financial incentives  (77%).  Alongside this, 81% of workers believe the opportunity to work remotely would also help them to improve their productivity, making a clear link between flexible working cultures and increased business productivity levels.

Regions where flexible working is more popular, such as London (where 30% of workers have the option) and the South East (32%), generally see the highest levels of productivity in the UK (where productivity, as defined by the ONS, is calculated as output per worker or output per hour worked). In contrast, only 18% of employees in Wales, where productivity levels are lower, are offered the opportunity to work flexible hours – suggesting that companies providing a better work life balance may be paving the way for a more productive workforce as employees feel more motivated.

The most productive sector – the professional services industry – is the most likely to offer employees flexible hours, with 36% of professional services employees saying it is available to them. Whereas, in the retail, hospitality and leisure industry, where one in four workers (24%) are not offered benefits or perks of any kind (including flexible working), productivity is lowest. In Q2 2017 output per hour stood at just £23.00 in this sector (significantly lower than the national average of £32.20) while the sector with the highest output per hour, professional services, had an average of £68.10 per hour.

The study also highlights a disparity between the perks employees believe to be most motivating and those that they are offered – as the vast majority of employees believe flexible working motivates them, yet less than a third (30%) of business offer it .The deficit is most apparent in the manufacturing industry where nearly all employees (91%) believe the opportunity to work more flexibly would improve their motivation and productivity at work, yet less than a quarter (23%) have the option.

Far from being an attitude associated only with younger workers, flexible working is valued most by 35-44 year olds of whom 59% value the opportunity ‘a great deal’, compared to just 47% of millennials (under 35s).

Further suggesting cash isn’t always king, good workplace culture was cited as being crucial to improving workplace productivity, while six in 10 employees believe work they find interesting boosts their productivity levels. Unsurprisingly, almost one on five (18%) employees cite poor work life balance as a reason for leaving their last job – a problem many companies could address with flexible working.

Q: To what extent, if at all, does each benefit/ perk motivate you at work?

  • 88% flexible working
  • 79% remote working
  • 76% financial bonus
  • 71% study leave
  • 60% learning courses
  • 58% away days
  • 52% volunteer days
  • 42% mat/ pat leave above statutory pay
  • 39% subsidised gym memberships
  • 39% wellbeing allowance
  • 37% healthcare insurance
  • 28% Xmas parties

In general, which, if any, of the following do you find improve your own productivity while at work?

    1. Interesting work (60%)
    2. Autonomy and responsibility (39%)
    3. Opportunity to grow/ develop (32%)
    4. Opportunity to try new things (31%)
    5. Financial incentives (28%)

Top reasons for leaving last job:

  1. Time for a change/ new challenge (24%)
  2. Fired/ made redundant (22%)
  3. Better prospects elsewhere (20%)
  4. Poor work/ life balance (16%)
  5. Grown bored/ complacent (16%)

Amanda Murphy, Head of Commercial Banking at HSBC UK said: “Our research shows that for an overwhelming number of workers, a more flexible way of working is more motivating than financial incentives.  Today’s workforce want a better balance between their work and home lives and the companies that are recognising and making provision for this are creating happier and more productive workplaces, which in turn is translating to the bottom line.”

Becks Beere, Managing Director of Avec UK, a design, product development & manufacturer, said: “As a mum of four, I understand the pressure to balance work and home life without having to compromise on career progression or the overall productivity of the business. For this reason I make sure Avec has a strong and supportive flexible working culture.”