Our research examined the impact of flexible working on employee performance. It also explored the factors that influenced successful implementation of flexible working practices.
Our research challenged the idea that providing flexible working arrangements was simply a cost to the employer, by demonstrating that through offering these arrangements to all employees, firms could generate performance benefits.
Flexible workers, managers and co-workers of flexible workers reported a generally positive effect on the quantity and quality of work performed.
In comparison to those on standard working arrangements, flexible workers had significantly higher scores on organisational commitment and job satisfaction.
The research uncovered the prevalence of informal flexible working in many of the case organisations; informal arrangements between an employee and their line manager were more common than arrangements which had been agreed via the formal request process.
- Funded by The research, conducted in partnership with the charity Working Families, was sponsored by a consortium of seven companies (Centrica, Citigroup, KPMG, Lehman Brothers, Microsoft, Pfizer and Rolls-Royce).
Impact of our research
Nationally and internationally, our research has informed debate in several policy and professional organisations and has been cited as evidence in a number of policy documents.
In the UK, it provided evidence for the Walsh Review (2008), concerned with flexible working patterns for parents of older children. Consequently, legislative changes were made in the UK in 2009 to extend the legal right of parents of children up to 16 years of age to request flexible working arrangements, affecting four and a half million people.
Other organisations drawing on this research in policy debates have included the Equality and Human Rights Commission (an independent statutory body with a mandate to challenge discrimination and protect and monitor human rights), the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Eurofound (the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations.
The findings from our research have been incorporated into the teaching of our degree (MBA and MSc in International Human Resource Management – IHRM) and executive development programmes.
Why the research was commissioned
Organisations implementing the ‘right to request’ and aware of the increasing popularity of flexible working arrangements wanted to establish a clear understanding of the experiences and perspectives of their employees at different levels, particularly with regard to the impact on performance. Successful implementation of flexible working practices was key to ensuring that business goals and individual needs were achieved.
Our research based on case studies, and using interviews, focus groups and an electronic questionnaire, overturned the idea that flexible working arrangements simply represented a cost to employers.
We have a long track record of research into the organisation of work and the management of the workforce needed for employers to survive and prosper. Our research has influenced thinking and policy in the UK and internationally.
During our research, we identified factors that influence successful implementation of flexible working. This showed that organisations gain benefits only where they implement flexible working into an appropriate environment and where other HR policies reflect the changed working arrangements of flexible workers.
Our research demonstrated the need to review existing HR policies when introducing flexible working. Policies designed for employees on ‘standard’ working arrangements can inadvertently disadvantage employees with flexible working arrangements. The findings also suggested a training need both for the people moving to different working arrangements and for those managing them.