Can an employer boost productivity by offering flexible working?

I chaired a panel debate at the CBI’s Future of Work Conference earlier this month that looked at whether employers could boost productivity whilst giving workers flexibility in when, how and where they work.

My panel included speakers from Atom Bank (the UK’s first app-only bank and an early adopter of the 4-day week), Qumodo (a tech start up in people analytics), facilities management firm ISS and Timewise, the social enterprise helping organisations to embrace flexibility.

My key take-aways from our lively debate were:

  • Flexibility is something employers need to offer. It is what candidates are looking for (it ranked more important than pay in some surveys in terms of the wants of job applicants). It is part of the solutions needed to address the UK’s labour and skills shortage, certain workplace inequalities and the consequences of an aging population.
  • Where an organisation gets it right, flexibility can boost productivity and output, increase engagement and reduce absence. This was Atom’s experience when adopting the 4-day week, which was consistent with the findings of the UK’s mass trial of this type of flexibility.
  • Finding the types of flexibility appropriate for your organisation is however really difficult. What flexibility you can offer needs to be led by how you can still deliver the required outputs. So in approaching this:
    • employers need to look at outputs, not simply inputs (since these are harder to measure);
    • both employee and employer need to understand the required work outputs and to understand flexibility must works both ways;
    • good communication and trust need to be at the heart of how employees work and are managed – disputes are emerging that have their origin in poor communication or working relationships and/or a lack of trust; and
    • you need to constantly review to mark sure you pick up any unintended consequences.
  • On the latter point, unintended consequences of hybrid working have, for some organisations, been an increase in health issues because of excessive working hours and an increase in certain inequalities where hybrid working has increased the pressure on those with adult and child caring responsibilities or affected the development of those new to roles.
  • The mass adoption of hybrid working was by necessity. But it has not triggered a shift in the adoption of flexible working more broadly. Other forms of flexibility are less prevalent. This may result in two tier workforce, those who can work remotely and those that can’t, which can be pronounced in sectors like retail, leisure, health and construction. For those organisations with employees in roles can’t be performed remotely, it is important to explore what other forms of flexibility can be offered.

Our content explained

Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

Posted by


Mills & Reeve Sites navigation
A tabbed collection of Mills & Reeve sites.
My Mills & Reeve navigation
Subscribe to, or manage your My Mills & Reeve account.
My M&R


Register for My M&R to stay up-to-date with legal news and events, create brochures and bookmark pages.

Existing clients

Log in to your client extranet for free matter information, know-how and documents.


Mills & Reeve system for employees.