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Flexible Working Policies are Dividing SMEs


Small and medium sized companies in the UK are divided when it comes to allowing their employees to work from home, according to the latest Close Brothers Business Barometer research.

Over half of SMEs (55%) said that they had a flexible working policy that enabled employees to work from home. However, two fifths (42%) said that they did not, with the remaining 3% unsure.

Companies that offer flexible working options felt that increased efficiency was a key benefit. Nearly 70% said they believe that it improves staff wellbeing and productivity.

However, this approach may be more challenging for some small businesses, and larger companies are more likely to be flexible. Looking at firms with over 250 members of staff, 60% said they could work from anywhere. In comparison, smaller enterprises employing less than 10 people were 14% less likely to have this kind of policy.

The research revealed that resources have a significant impact on SMEs’ decisions regarding flexible working. In companies that allow flexible working, one fifth (19%) of decision makers said that staff regularly work from home because not enough office space is available, with this figure rising to 28% for companies with between 11 and 60 employees.

Technology was also key, with capability dividing businesses. While 12% said that they support home working because digital advances mean that there is less need to be in the office, a quarter (25.8%) of businesses that said that they are unable to allow staff to work from home because they do not have the technology available.

The most common reason businesses gave for not allowing staff to work from home was that their specific business needs still dictate that staff must be on site to complete their work.

David Thomson, CEO of Close Brothers Invoice Finance, said:

“Digital advances have made it easier for companies to offer a flexible approach to work and SMEs should ensure they are investing in these systems.

“By allowing staff to be home based or change their hours, companies can create a positive culture which supports wellbeing and improves productivity. This can motivate employees, making it easier for companies to attract and retain an effective and diverse workforce.

“However, remote staff should not be disconnected staff. While there are undoubtedly many tasks that need to be undertaken in person, technology now means collaboration, teamwork and information sharing can happen quickly and securely, regardless of location.

“To make a ‘working from anywhere’ culture successful, businesses across the UK must ensure that they have the right infrastructure in place.”