Coventry University Enterprises Ltd (CUE Ltd) is the commercial trading arm of Coventry University and provides a range of business and IT services to companies across the UK and Europe. The company is taking a lead in promoting flexible working practices and has introduced an initiative called ‘Location-Independent Working’ (LIW). The achievements of this scheme have been publicly acknowledged with a DTI E-Commerce award. The LIW scheme has led to the development of a formal written flexible working policy that covers areas such as hours of work, health and safety, insurance, travel arrangements, data security, training and equipment. The policy sits alongside the employment contract.
The LIW initiative began in 2002. Between approx.10 people are accepted into the scheme every three months, which allows employees to trial flexible working and assess if it is suitable for them. Within this scheme employees are encouraged to work ‘out of the office’ between 40-60% of the time. Mobile technology plays an important part in enabling this flexibility so CUE Ltd turned to Orange and Microsoft for assistance in creating an easy to use mobile working environment.
After three months, employees choose to either remain working flexibly or return to a ‘fixed-desk’ environment. Since the scheme commenced, 100% of the participants have chosen to work flexibly.
“LIW allows you better use of time, both work and social, getting ever closer to the ideal life/work balance so lacking in 90% of the workforce. If ever you need convincing that working hard is not the same as working productively, try LIW,” says a LIW participant
Managing Flexible Working
“Our line managers are an essential part of the process and are really bought into the scheme and they encourage it as much as possible. 99.0% percent of line managers themselves are flexible workers, which helps in understanding the issues. It is essential that they fully trust their staff to work efficiently whether they are in or out of the office,” says Jane Rawlings- Purcell, New Ways of Working Manager, Coventry University Enterprises Ltd.
Open communication channels help with the issue of trust – teams are in constant contact via instant messenger, email and phone, so there is no doubt that people are actually working.
Enabling Flexible Working
Flexible workers have to be equipped with the necessary technology to do their jobs. Each flexible worker goes through a ‘needs assessment’ process that involves a three-way meeting with an IT analyst and the new ways of working manager. Individuals are then equipped with the appropriate technology dependent on their individual needs including smartphones, laptops, PDAs, tablet PCs and thin client computers. The Orange SPV C500, a smartphone that enables the user to synchronise with their Outlook email, calendar and contacts has been particularly popular. Users can respond to emails in real time while on the move, leading to immediate productivity gains.
“The Orange SPV C500 looks great, feels great, is very lightweight and provides complete Microsoft Outlook integration at a very affordable price. In time I’d like everyone in the company to be using one,” says Matt Knowles, ICT analyst advisor, Coventry University Enterprises Ltd
Orange SPV C500
The SPV C500 is the world’s smallest smartphone. Created in partnership with Microsoft, the phone uses the Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 platform, which provides an experience that is similar to using Windows PC. As well as standard voice and messaging services, the SPV C500 includes, Pocket Outlook, Pocket Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player.
Benefits of Flexible Working
Improved staff morale, work-life balance, staff retention rates and productivity
Lower reported sickness absence and stress levels
Reduction in office space and associated costs – fixed desk space has been cut by at least a third, resulting in a drastic lowering of costs per employee. A ‘fixed’ office employee costs CUE Ltd £6,000 in terms of overheads, whereas a flexible worker costs £3,000
The reduction in desk space meant that CUE Ltd could vacate one of their buildings and release it to tenant companies, generating a revenue of £68,000
“In research with the London School of Economics we found the biggest barrier to flexible working was a lack of trust from managers. Coventry University Enterprises have overcome the challenge and instilled a culture of trust for employees to work flexibly. In doing so, they have gained huge benefits, both monetary and social.”
Shaun Orpen, marketing director, Business Solutions, Orange UK
For further information on mobile technology, please see www.orange.co.uk/business