As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention and with economic conditions remaining challenging, businesses need to be creative in finding new ways to make the most of their resources. Flexible working - working at times and locations that suit both the individual and the company - is nothing new. But many companies are still uncertain about taking the plunge and adopting such new ways of working, especially without being able to prove the benefits.
Now there's some hard evidence that even the most hard-nosed businessperson can't ignore. A recent survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Vodafone UK reveals that UK businesses can save themselves a whopping £34 billion a year though freeing up desk space by working more flexibly. Let's look at the stats behind this claim.
According to Government figures, there are 750,000 employers in the UK and, according to the YouGov survey, 85 per cent of businesses use office space. Of these businesses, according to the survey, 20 per cent believe they could reduce their desk count by an average of 46. Using the latest average UK occupancy cost per workstation from DTZ Research (see DTZ's Global Occupancy Costs - Offices report) of £5,746 per desk, the annual saving across UK businesses totals £34 billion.
On average, UK bosses who were surveyed thought they could lose 46 desks, but they vastly underestimated the value of those desks, at £441 per desk. This is less than 10 per cent of cost of a workstation that DTZ's research uncovered.
The YouGov survey also revealed that more than three quarters (77 per cent) of business decision makers say they measure success by results rather than time spent in the office, suggesting that UK bosses do not need their staff to be bound to their desks.
However, only 20 per cent of bosses believe that they can get rid of desks through flexible working and nearly two-fifths (37 per cent) have not even considered flexible working as a way to cut costs. Working from home is the most common option for flexible working, offered by almost half the companies surveyed, but other options include shared workspaces and flexi-desks.
The most appropriate solutions will vary from business to business, but flexible working is about working from wherever you need to be, whether that's from a café with a client, a customer's office or during your commute.
It's true that not all roles are well suited to flexible working. But as most employers (62 per cent) recognize that flexible working leads to a happier workforce and 63 per cent agree that employees don't need to work the traditional 9-to-5, the YouGov survey highlights that many UK business leaders are open to new ways of working but are not always aware of how it can be implemented.
By making the best use of technology such as audio and videoconferencing, instant messaging and mobile internet, new ways of working can be achieved while strengthening collaboration and enhancing a sense of community between colleagues.
It's more important than ever for UK businesses to be agile and responsive to customers. The ability to work from anywhere can help employees get results, maintain morale and cut fixed costs - which can only be of benefit to UK plc.