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Vodafone: Flexible Work Policies Boost Profits

Sarah Thomas
2/8/2016
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Enterprises around the world are embracing -- apprehensively in some cases -- flexible working policies, and they are proving to be both good for employee morale and the bottom line.

Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) recently surveyed 8,000 businesses across ten countries and found that 75% have introduced flexible working policies, like the ability to work from home or adjust hours based on commute time or family obligations. Of those who had, 61% said their company's profits increased, 83% reported an improvement in productivity and 58% believed the policies had a positive impact on the company's reputation.

These types of policies were most common in the US where 82% of companies had them in place, and the outcomes have been equally positive with 77% noting staff morale had increased and 60% reporting an improved work/life balance.

John Curtis, vice president of operations for Vodafone Americas, said the survey was also telling in that the 20% of companies that had yet to implement flexible policies were a good indication of the perceived barriers that still exist. In the US, those include a fear that employee teamwork will decline (43%) and a lack of enterprise social networking tools to help (44%).

Half of US employees also said they don't feel they can actually use the flexible policy their employer offers, highlighting the differences between policies and company culture. (See Vodafone's Doberneck: Put Policies Into Practice to Retain Women and Championing Change: It's a Cultural Thing.)

"There are a number of concerns or fears about it that companies need to work to overcome," Curtis says. "Eighty-two percent have adopted it, but there's still a ways to go for companies to make it easy."


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Curtis says Vodafone has made good use of collaboration tools and, especially, video conferencing, to be productive and encourage teamwork amongst its flexible workers across the globe. The company is also proud of its maternity leave policy, which offers new moms 16 weeks of paid time off, plus the ability to work 30-hour work weeks at full pay for six months after they return. It does not, however, extend the same policy to new fathers, who get just two weeks paid off. Melissa Salottolo, senior industry analyst and PR lead for Vodafone Americas, says that's because its motivation for the policy was a business one. (See Vodafone: What's Good for Moms Is Good for Business.)

"The maternity leave global mandatory minimum was about addressing a shift we saw in organizations with our female employees and losing a percent of those employees because of leave," she says. "The effort last year was focused on retaining that level of female employees. It was about the business benefit for Vodafone overall."

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/8/2016 | 3:44:42 PM
re: definition of flexibility
Very true. It's pretty telling that 75% of companies report having flexible policies, but 50% say they don't think they can take advantage of them.

I think starting early and ending early works well for international companies too, if you have a lot of business in Europe.
komatineni
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komatineni,
User Rank: Lightning
2/8/2016 | 3:31:53 PM
re: definition of flexibility
Having a flexible work schedule is great. But this depends on the actual culture at the work place, team & colleagues. It helps to start early for me, finish early and spend time with kids before saying bye to the day. Compared to my 9to5 schedule, I ended up working longer but I realized I am more productive these days.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/8/2016 | 12:07:35 PM
Re: How flexible are you?
Dan Jones single-headedly is keeping the hoodie movement at bay.
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/8/2016 | 11:59:59 AM
Re: How flexible are you?
That's true. Is everyone commuting on bikes these days?? Glad to hear "hoodie culture" hasn't effected LR yet.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/8/2016 | 11:53:54 AM
Re: How flexible are you?
You obviously haven't been in an office for a while. Dress and hygeine codes have changed a bit. Not at Light Reading, of course -- still the height of fashion and kemptness there.
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/8/2016 | 11:46:15 AM
Re: How flexible are you?
I agree. The trade-off for the ability to take an hour or two off to pick up kids, run errands or do other personal things is that you're always available. 9 to 5 definitely doesn't exist anymore.

I can also see how video conferencing helps people stay part of the team, but I must say I'm glad we don't rely on that much here. I don't take the advice of dressing and showering like you go to the office every day when you work from home. 
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/8/2016 | 10:56:23 AM
Re: How flexible are you?
From the worker's point of view, "flexibility" is a tricky proposition, as you suggest: Thanks to our more than warm embrace of mobile devices, "flexibility" can and sometimes does translate to 24/7 availability, even if it's just to respond to emails and texts. But maybe this is the carrot that more companies are willing to pursue in return for sparing some employees the soul-killing experience of the five-day-a-week commute.
Sarah Thomas
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50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/8/2016 | 10:32:29 AM
How flexible are you?
Flexible working is, of course, enabled by technology like smartphones to always be connected and broadband speeds that make working at home palatable. I asked Vodafone for what definition they provided on this survey, because my worry was that some would take "flexibility" to mean they can work all day at the office and keep working nights, weekends and vacations. That's not the case, but it is still loosely defined. The main thing is ability to work from home and set your own hours, or at least have flexible hours.

I also wonder if most companies start with a flexible working policy or if employees have to earn the right to, for example, work from home on some days. If you trust your employees, that shouldn't be a hinderance. It also makes a lot of sense for a multi-national company doing business on multiple continents. 
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