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The Summer of Sport a Turning Point in British Work Culture?

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As this fantastic sporting summer draws to a close, there has been a lot of talk about legacies. As well as lifting the public mood and, hopefully, bringing about a "fitter" nation, this summer's sporting events may have also had a dramatic impact on the business world.

I talked about the public controversy surrounding flexible working during the busy summer in a previous post. After much debate it looks like one of the long-term outcomes of the Games may be a turning point in British work and office culture.

There has been anecdotal evidence as well as research from a range of sources (the Institute for Leadership & Management's study is a good example) showing workers' experiences of altering their working arrangements this summer has fuelled an increased appetite for flexible working.

A survey conducted by Vodafone UK showed that over half (52 per cent) of workers in London and the Home Counties would welcome the chance to work flexibly more often, following their experiences of working differently in August.

Almost a quarter of all workers surveyed (24%) changed their normal arrangements, working from home or alternative business locations for some or all of the two-week period. Of those who changed their working arrangements, nearly three-quarters (73%) said they had worked more productively as a result of the change.

It would seem that the cynics who were reported as claiming that working Britain would grind to a halt during the Olympics and employees would be skiving en masse, have been proved wrong.

The busy summer has highlighted to British businesses the longer-term advantages of working flexibly. The employees we surveyed saw a number of benefits from working differently, including a reduction in commuting time (32%) and fewer distractions and disruptions (34%).

It does not surprise me that many have found this different way of doing business to be more productive than the traditional nine-to-five at the office desk. Indeed, their experiences are very much in line with my own since introducing workplace flexibility here.

The survey also indicated that bosses may now be more open to flexible working. While 30% of all respondents said their employer already allowed flexible working, another 23% felt that their bosses would now be more open to such practices.

This is good news because in the current economic conditions bosses need to take a step back and think more openly about what is really going to drive better employee engagement and productivity.

If changing working practices becomes one of the legacies of the sporting summer it can only be a good thing for British businesses.