Working from home: the best and worst countries in Europe

- Leadership - May 05, 2016

Flexible working is somewhat of a buzzword in today’s employment circles. The traditional Monday to Friday 9-5pm working pattern is becoming increasingly consigned to history as people work different, often longer hours to fit around other commitments.

As organisations face an era of digital transformation, new research highlights the need for HR professionals to redefine their role and contribution to the organisation. A study of 16 European countries conducted by IDC, sponsored by talent management software provider Cornerstone OnDemand, reveals differing attitudes regarding flexible working practices.

IDC interviewed 1,352 HR professionals and business managers across 16 European countries working in organisations with more than 500 employees. The survey was conducted between January and February 2016 with respondents from the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, Luxemburg and Belgium.

The UK, Germany, Switzerland and Poland lag behind in flexibility stakes

The report demonstrates the value of flexible working by showing a positive correlation between employee happiness and the adoption of flexible working practices.

Yet, the research also reveals that flexible working practices have been taken up at different speeds across Europe, where the lowest flexible working maturity appears to be clustered in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the UK. Among the respondents from Poland, less than 50 percent of those surveyed were allowed to work from home, while the figure for the Nordic countries was 87 percent. 

Business managers and HR respondents stated a low level of flexible working adoption in Poland, the UK, Switzerland and Germany – surprising, given the competitive labour market in these regions. The Nordics, Spain, Benelux and Austria were perceived to be the most mature when it came to flexible working options. 

Additionally, HR respondents indicated a higher level of flexible working than line managers. HR’s responses were between five and six percentage points higher than line managers, highlighting a lack of alignment between the two groups.

Bo Lykkegaard of IDC commented: "This massive survey revealed many interesting discoveries for us. For example, we found how important flexible working practices and the IT tools to support it are for loyalty and pride of talented employees and managers. IT for mobile and remote working, ability to use personal devices at work, and IT training were critical influencers in this respect.

“However, 'freedom factors,' such as permission to work remotely and ability to apply for new positions outside one's own department, also had critical impact on employee happiness. We conclude that European organizations have work to do both in terms of technology investments as well as more flexible work cultures.”

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Read the May 2016 issue of Business Review Europe magazine.

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