How Your Competitors are Measuring the ROI of Flexible Working (and so should you)

communication at work d&i strategies managing working parents return to work smart and flexible working Sep 04, 2018

“It seems that one day soon, flexible working could simply be known as ‘working’. We are reaching the tipping point.” - Mark Dixon, CEO and Founder, IWG

Flexible workers have been fighting an unfair public relations battle over the misconception that they are less committed, and slower to get things done for some time. The tables are finally turning and there is a huge amount of evidence to prove the opposite is true.  

In fact, flexible workers are more productive if anything. They have a better work-life balance and every hour they spend working counts. They are far more likely to be focussing on getting the job done instead of wasting time until their shift is over. An added benefit? They are happier too!

The New Way of Working is a relatively new phenomenon that provides the context for these developments. It consists of three distinct pillars that are referred to as Bricks, Bytes, and Behavior: the work location, use of ICT, and the employee-manager relation. The New Way of Working employees have the freedom to work when and where they are most productive.

This freedom is based on mutual trust instead of managerial control and on results instead of presence. Research shows that after the implementation of the New Way of Working, employees experience more job autonomy, a higher level of job satisfaction, decreased levels of stress, and a more peaceful family life. Though the New Way of Working may not be a cure for all organizational illnesses, organizations need to realize that in an ever-changing world, changes in the way we work are inevitable.

International Workplace Group (IWG), the global operator of co-working office space, recently spoke to 1800 professionals from a range of industries in 96 counties on how they use flexible workspace. From the report, these three main benefits came to light…


A huge 91% said that flexible workspace enables employees in their company to be more productive while on the move.


89% believe that flexible working helps their business grow, 87% think flexible working helps their business to stay competitive, and 83% believe that flexible working helps their business to maximise profits.


80% of respondents state that enabling their company’s employees to work from anywhere helped them to recruit and retain top talent.

This is why businesses of all sizes are waking up to the strategic as well as the financial benefits of flexible workspace. While a simple reason, cost reduction is often the most powerful in the boardroom.

IWG’s research found that 81% of respondents believe using flexible office space can help their company save money by reducing their real estate management costs (such as purchase, administration, fit-out, maintenance costs, etc.), while 89% see driving down costs as a major driver.

The Importance Of A Productive Work Environment...

However, it’s important to note that not all working environments were created equal and this should be given careful consideration to maximise productivity. Working from home is not for everyone, and other options such as co-working space of flexible workspace could offer the best of both worlds.

Some workers report that working from home leaves them lonely, lacking interaction with other professionals, raiding the fridge and irritated by noisy family members. Coffee shops too are rated as noisy and nosy with sensitive conversations at risk of being overheard.

The drawbacks of working from nonprofessional locations clearly do not end there and include the inability to hold meetings and to access critical office equipment such as printers, scanners and a suitably strong Wi-Fi or broadband connection.

When it comes to defining what is a productive work environment, the definition boils down to three elements: Reliable and fast Wi-Fi (81% of respondents stated this as a key characteristic), a smart and well-equipped room (63%), and guaranteed safety (59%). These speak to the Bricks and Bytes pillars of the New Ways of Working approach.

If a company has already taken care of the bricks and bytes, has created new solutions and optimized existing processes, it is now a matter of demonstrating to the employees the advantages of the spatially and technically optimized work concepts – because in the end, it is they who are expected to work differently in the future, but this will only happen if the advantages of this New Work are understood. To this end, good change management is indispensable.

In this context, the management must become active, set an example in applying new approaches as a common vision of the company and, last but not least, actively involve, challenge, and promote its employees. It is also worth creating incentives for the employees to increase their motivation.

Trust is vital: Employers must rid themselves of any compulsion to constantly monitor employees working in home office.

All of these points aside, it is not only a matter of getting used to the new conditions and learning how to use them; every employee has to work on him/herself in order for the new working environment to be successful. The reason for this is that smarter working offers new freedom, but at the same time requires new individual qualities. For example, the employer must demonstrate a higher degree of trust in their employees, allowing them to carry out their tasks independently in the home office without a constant compulsion to monitor them. On the other hand, employees must also work on themselves: Self-management and self-discipline, but also self-development and self-confidence, are important keywords.

A Tipping Point Is Coming…

From a Human Resources perspective this research confirms what we have known through our own work with businesses for some time; flexible working can make employees and their teams more productive and it can also help them improve their work:life balance.

Another key finding is that the significant majority of respondents reported flexible workspace is a key way of attracting and retaining talent. By tapping into the work:life balance and the motivational benefits flexible working brings, businesses are keeping people loyal and also reducing overheads.

As more and more workers wake up to the benefits of flexible working, businesses will now need to adapt to these changes.

A report published in the UK, “Working Anywhere: A Winning Formula For Good Work?” researchers surveyed 500 managerial level employees from a range of medium to large businesses. The report highlighted interesting trends and norms within businesses.

Of those resistant to flexible working, 37% believed that flexible working would lead to longer hours while 28% were concerned that it would prevent them from seeing their colleague’s work. It’s also interesting to note that flexible working wouldn’t be suited to all businesses, as 24% reported that their work would have to take place on-site.

Whatever your thoughts on flexible working, it is becoming an increasingly important part of an employee’s expectation. Deciding what works best for your business as an early adopter is far more likely to help companies to attract and retain the best talent, rather than constantly playing catch-up.

To read the full IWG report, click here.

If you would like to explore the ways in which you can promote and support flexible working within your own place of work, please email us at Thriving Talent to start a conversation: [email protected].

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