Flexible West “can beat the crunch”

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Flexible working helps SW firms weather economic storm.

Businesses in Cornwall could be well positioned to weather the economic downturn, because of their high uptake of modern flexible working arrangements, says Julian Cowans, project manager of actnow flex.Previous studies have shown that flexible work practices, such as working remotely from home or on the move, or at less conventional times, can improve employees’ productivity by as much as 15%, while simultaneously reducing overhead costs.

Such methods are especially popular in the South West, and Cornwall in particular.

Thanks to widespread availability of suitable technology, spearheaded by organisations such as actnow, and the success of local creative, technical and service-based industries, almost half of the region’s businesses now have at least some employees working flexibly.

Now economic conditions are worsening, however, Julian Cowans, manager of the Cornwall Enterprise-led actnow flex project, believes these flexible work arrangements, even partly adopted for lifestyle reasons, could give the region’s businesses a competitive edge.

He says:  “Many Cornish companies have been quick to seize upon flexible working because of the benefits for work-life balance.  It’s often a natural fit with the way they do business, independent of a big city location, and lets them make the most of the reasons they wanted to work here in the first place.

“Increasingly, though, firms that work flexibly are finding themselves more competitive in the new, tougher market conditions.  They have higher productivity, lower costs, and can react to new opportunities more quickly.

“Given the high take up of flexible working, that could be really good news for Cornwall.”

Michael Dunn, Regional Manager of BT says: “BT introduced flexible working into the business some time ago and we have seen increases in productivity and cost savings as a result, as well as increased staff retention and motivation.  We now have more than 10,000 people who work from home and 64,000 more who are equipped to work flexibly.  It is great to see  actnow flex take the lead in introducing the benefits of flexible working to the smaller businesses that are the backbone of the economy in the South West.”

Further insights into trends among flexible working firms will be revealed on Tuesday 4th November, when the full results from a South-West wide pilot study are announced at the Business Anytime Anywhere conference, organised by actnow flex at the Eden Project.

Funded by the South West RDA, BT, Cornwall Pure Business, Cornwall County Council and Cornwall Enterprise, the event will be the UK’s first ever conference on exploring the impact of flexible working for small and medium-sized businesses.

Fabian King, head of regional ICT at SWRDA, comments:  “Small businesses in the South West are leading the nation on flexible working, so Cornwall is a very fitting place to have the country’s first ever conference on the subject.

“Home broadband, WiFi hotspots, video conferencing and mobile internet technology are all having a great impact on the way we work.  The benefits for the environment and people’s work wellbeing have always been clear, but now the increase in competitiveness and profitability is also coming into its own.”

Tickets for the Business Anytime Anywhere conference are available FREE OF CHARGE to owners and managers of businesses in the South West, employing less than 250 people.

For more information, or to reserve a place, call 0800 800 935 or email peter.heath@actnowcornwall.co.uk.

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