The growing trend for agile working - time to say goodbye to 9-5?

14 January 2019
Organisations are increasingly looking to implement agile working practices as a way to mitigate expensive property overheads and to boost employee productivity and morale.

As far back as 2013 Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of CIPD, was blogging on the benefits of agile working, stating that it is “linked to higher levels of employee engagement and wellbeing, which in turn has been proven to have a positive impact on workplace productivity”.

Entrepreneur, billionaire and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has long been a staunch advocate of flexible working, working himself from his home, Necker Island, for six months of the year. In a CNBC article in 2018 Branson cited three top reasons for allowing staff to work flexibly as (1) the rising demand for flexible work amongst employees (2) top talent flocking to businesses that offer flexible work and (3) flexible work cutting costs by reducing office space and boosting productivity.

The findings of some large scale remote working studies support this growing enthusiasm for agile working. For example, the world’s largest-scale remote working study was carried out by CTrip (China’s largest travel agency with 13,000 employees). CTrip gave the staff at its call centre the opportunity to volunteer to work from home for 9 months. Half worked from home and the rest remained in the office as a control group. The conclusion of the study revealed that when employees worked from home there was:

  • A 13% increase in employee productivity
  • A drop in attrition rate (e.g. employees leaving the Company) by 50%
  • Higher work satisfaction

Whilst there is much research available and statistics highlighting the positive benefits of agile working, employers should also be aware of the potential pitfalls and downsides.

These include: management mistrust, it is not suitable for every employee (e.g. they need to be self-directed and have a defined home office space), career fears for employees (i.e. concerns about being “out of sight, out of mind”), a sense of social isolation and management concerns about data security.

Careful planning is required before implementing agile working practices. This includes: understanding the current culture of the business, having a clear vision of what the business wants to achieve through agile working and ensuring it has the necessary IT capabilities to support this. 

Risk areas such as negative staff perceptions, difficulties with remote supervision, the health and safety of remote working staff and data security must also all be addressed to ensure successful implementation. Appropriate policies and training must be introduced to support new agile working practices.

Our employment and Corporate Law HR specialists are on hand to assist you with your agile working plans from early stage through to implementation. Including:

  • Auditing your organisation's current working practices
  • Devising staff surveys to assess company culture and perceptions
  • Identifying your business priorities and matching these to suitable agile working options
  • Identifying HR and legal risk areas of agile working options
  • Delivering implementation of your preferred options, including training managers and circumventing employee relations disputes
  • Policy and contract redesign to accommodate new models of working to reduce exposure to legal challenges
  • Communications, education and culture change strategies to ensure that you maximise the positive impact of your agile working practices

To arrange a free call or meeting to discuss how we can assist you please contact us.


Employment Law



Author: Victoria McMeel