Nine out of ten (89%) employees believe flexible working is key to boosting productivity levels

  • HSBC research reveals flexible working is more likely to increase worker productivity than financial incentives
  • Regions where flexible working is more popular, such as London and the South-East, are also the most productive, with London’s output per hour 32% higher than the national average
  • Productivity levels are highest in the professional services sector , where 36% of employees benefit from flexible working whilst productivity levels in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector are among the lowest where flexible working is less of an option

Data published today by HSBC reveal that flexible and remote working are more likely to motivate staff and ultimately increase workplace productivity than financial incentives.

A study of British businesses and employees found that nine in ten employees surveyed (89%) consider flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity levels within the workplace – a view shared equally among male and female employees (87% and 90% respectively) – and more so than financial incentives (77%). Alongside this, 81% of workers who can work remotely believe this opportunity helps them to improve their productivity, making a clear link between flexible working cultures and increased business productivity levels. 

Regions where flexible working is more popular, such as London (where 30% of workers have the option) and the South East (32%), generally see the highest levels of productivity in the UK (where productivity, as defined by the ONS, is calculated as output per worker or output per hour worked ). In contrast, only 18% of employees in Wales, where productivity levels are lower, are offered the opportunity to work flexible hours – suggesting that companies providing a better work life balance may be paving the way for a more productive workforce as employees feel more motivated.

The most productive sector – the professional services industry – is the most likely to offer employees flexible hours, with 36% of professional services employees saying it is available to them. Whereas, in the retail, hospitality and leisure industry, where one in four workers (24%) are not offered benefits or perks of any kind (including flexible working), productivity is lowest. In Q2 2017 output per hour stood at just £23.00 in this sector (significantly lower than the national average of £32.20) while the sector with the highest output per hour, professional services, had an average of £68.10 per hour.

The study also highlights a disparity between the working style options employees believe to be most motivating and those that they are offered – as the vast majority of employees who are currently offered flexible working believe it motivates them, yet less than a third (30%) of business offer it. The deficit is most apparent in the manufacturing industry where nearly all employees currently offered the benefit (91%) believe the opportunity to work more flexibly would improve their motivation and productivity at work, yet less than a quarter (23%) have the option.  

Far from being an attitude associated only with younger workers, flexible working is valued most by 35-44 year olds of whom 59% value the opportunity ‘a great deal’, compared to just 47% of millennials (under 35s).

Suggesting cash isn’t always king, good workplace culture was cited as being crucial to improving workplace productivity, while more than half of employees (53%) believe work they find interesting boosts their productivity levels. Furthermore, almost one on five (18%) employees cite poor work life balance as a reason for leaving their last job – a problem many companies could address with flexible working.

Amanda Murphy, Head of Commercial Banking at HSBC UK said:

“Our research shows that for an overwhelming number of workers, a more flexible way of
working is more motivating than financial incentives. Today’s workforce wants a better balance between their work and home lives and companies that are recognising and making provision for this are creating happier and more productive workplaces, which in turn is translating to the bottom line.”

Becks Beere Managing Director of Avec UK, a design, product development & manufacturer, said:

“As a mum of four, I understand the pressure to balance work and home life without having to compromise on career progression or the overall productivity of the business. For this reason I make sure Avec has a strong and supportive flexible working culture.

“The wellbeing of our employees is the most important thing to us, so we have a number of informal flexible working arrangements in place to help our employees balance their commitments both inside and outside work. Not only does this help create a better environment, it shows our employees that we value and care for them, which helps contribute towards a more motivated and engaged workplace. And it seems to be working for us – in the last year we have more than doubled our turnover, with further significant growth already planned into 2018 and onwards. If businesses focus on looking after their employees, they are more likely to be motivated, happier and loyal to the company – which has a strong impact on their output.”

Dorset-based Avec designs, manufactures and sells stationery, craft, gift, skincare and homeware products for big name retailers across the UK – including John Lewis, Aldi and Dunelm as well as Europe, North America and Australia.

>> Download the full briefing