Public sector could save more than 1 billion by allowing more flexible employment practices, think-tank says

Higher productivity from more flexible working practices could see the public sector making an extra 1.4 billion, a think-tank claims.

The RSA and Vodafone UK have got together to produce a report into the benefits of flexible working. The Flex Factor study involved a survey of 2,828 UK employers and staff and it suggests that working from home instead of commuting to and from the office could allow them to work an extra five hours per week.

It is thought that the extra time could be worth as much as 4,200 for every member of staff, adding up to around 1.2 billion and a further 200 million saved by the Treasury.

The RSA, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts Manufactures and Commerce, is a charity think-tank that works to finds ways to solve modern social challenges and narrow the gap between real life and what the public wants for the future. Its report shows that flexible working is catching on, as two fifths of employers have given their workers laptops, 25% have provided them with smartphones and 10% have sent them home with tablets.

As many as 11% of workers in public sector jobs would like to work more flexibly but are not yet able to, according to Julian Thompson, director of enterprise at the RSA. He said the goal of the Government's deficit reduction programme is to slash public spending and minimise the impact on vital services at the same time.

It is a huge challenge for the sector and Mr Thompson says flexible working can contribute a great deal as the survey reveals a clear connection between flexible employment and the quality of services as workers are more likely to be innovative and apply their skills.

Mr Thompson said the public sector is relying on innovative ideas and practices to be able to overcome the problems of dwindling resources and flexible working can play a huge part in achieving it. The RSA said the whole of the UK's economy could receive a boost of more than 8 billion if all employees were allowed to work flexibly.

Copyright Press Association 2013