SMEs urged to consider flexible working

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are being urged to consider flexible working options, after a new study found that absenteeism is hitting business’ profitability.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the average UK employee takes off approximately 4.3 sick days a year – yet a new study suggests that 14 per cent of SME staff will take off an average of seven days or more.

Research from the National Institute of Healthcare Excellence (NICE) has found that absenteeism costs the UK economy an estimated £15bn a year, while commentators have suggested that SMEs could be bearing the brunt of this hit.

Small businesses are now being urged to review their workplace policies around absences – and also to explore new opportunities in terms of flexible working.

Flexible working is loosely defined as a way or working that suits an employee’s needs. As opposed to expecting staff to work traditional nine-to-five office shifts, the idea is that SMEs should enable them to work from home, or on the move using mobile devices and other forms of technology.

Earlier this summer, a study carried out by tech company Samsung found that SMEs are suffering from a so-called ‘productivity crisis’ – which it says could be reversed if more small business embraced flexible working and new technology.

It found that despite the fact smartphones are commonplace in today’s social world, just 31 per cent of UK SMEs provide their employees with such devices, while only 27 per cent of SMEs issue their workers with laptops.

Samsung argues that smaller businesses are ignoring the importance of modern technology in the workplace and are strangling their employees of flexible working opportunities.

The tech giant claims that flexible working – as opposed to longer office hours – is the key to improving productivity and keeping modern employees happy.