Flexibility in working ‘can boost economy’

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The public sector could get a £1.4bn boost by allowing more flexible working, according to a think-tank.

A report from the RSA and communications firm Vodafone UK suggested that employees could gain an extra five productive hours per week through arrangements such as working from home instead of commuting.

The higher productitivty is potentially worth £4,200 for every staff member – around £1.2bn in total – and there could also be £200m in cost savings for the Treasury.

Julian Thompson, Director of Enterprise at the RSA, said around 11 per cent of public sector employees wanted to work flexibly but were not being offered the chance.

“Across the public sector intensive efforts are being made, as part of the coalition Government’s deficit reduction programme, to drastically reduce spending while minimising the impact on key services,” he said.

“Our findings show a strong link between the adoption of flexible working and service quality, as these working practices drive innovation and better utilisation of skills.

“In addition to enhancing existing services, this is vital if the public sector is going to find innovative approaches to tackling the mounting pressures and demands it faces, with limited resources.

“Enabling people to work flexibly can make a significant difference to our country’s economic and social prosperity, both now and in the future.”

The Flex Factor report was based on a survey of 2,828 UK employers and staff.

It found that across the private and public sectors 41 per cent of employers provided workers with a laptop, a quarter supplied a smartphone and one in 10 tablet computers.

Closing the “flexibility gap” across the whole economy could provide a boost of £8.1bn, the study estimated.