Flexible working achievable for SMEs

A government sponsored report into flexible working has concluded that – within reason – SMEs can benefit from implementing flexible working policies.

A government sponsored report into flexible working has concluded that – within reason – SMEs can benefit from implementing flexible working policies.

The Flexible Working: Challenges for Business report, compiled by the All-Party Parliamentary Small Business Group (APPSBG) and the Association of Chartered Accountants (ACCA). Evidence submitted to the group suggested that many small businesses were already using flexible working practices, but many did not understand their rights and responsibilities.

APPSBG chair Andy Love, MP for Edmonton in London, said: “For flexible working to succeed support needs to be given to small businesses; all employment law should be designed with small business in mind.”

He added: “Many small businesses claim flexible working is a burden. The possible extension of the right to request flexible working to everyone could put an even bigger strain on SMEs, especially when the economy is beginning to emerge from recession.”

The report identified a clear need to address the perception that flexible working is a perk for working parents, and called for a reorganisation of the benefits system to better support people who wish to work part time.

Michael Davies, head of product management at UC specialist and home working advocate Viatel, supported the report’s recommendations.

“One of the keys to making home working beneficial for both the company and employees is to focus more on the benefits that the practice can provide,” he said. “For example, despite concern that employees may not work as hard out of the office, organisations implementing home working regularly report that productivity has actually increased as a result.

“Other benefits reported include increased flexibility as staff working from home are often more willing to work unconventional hours,” he added.

Flexible working has been foremost in many industry minds over the past 24 hours, as the realisation dawned that, once again, a great number of companies were completely unprepared for the current cold snap.

“Resellers should be talking to their customers not only this week but over the coming months about how they cope when we have severe weather conditions,” said Rob Lovell, CEO at cloud computing provider ThinkGrid. “So while the snow will be resulting in lost revenue for many, resellers have a real opportunity to use it to boost their cloud computing revenues.”

The question of why flexible working technology was not upsold in the months after the cold snap of February 2009, which resulted in similarly preventable chaos, has yet to be asked.

Meanwhile, although many IT distributors gamely remained open yesterday, B2B sales were reportedly slow as customers opted to stay home, with some treating the day as “almost like a holiday”, according to Avnet’s Sukh Rayat.

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