Can Flex Working Ease Gridlock?

Last Updated Mar 15, 2010 9:25 AM EDT

If you spent this morning strap-hanging in a stuffy, over-crowded carriage, you'll be in favour of the latest calls to ease rush hour traffic, human and automotive.

UK business organisation the CBI is calling for major reforms to roads and public transport to ease peak-time bottlenecks, and its "fresh thinking" also calls on employers to break the nine-to-five routine.

In its report, "Tackling congestion, driving growth -- a new approach to roads policy", the CBI's focus is the roads -- which 80 percent of businesses refer to as "vital" to their success. But to ease traffic on the roads, the CBI's recommending flexible working times and -- gasp -- car-pooling.

For this to work, says the CBI, government and business needs to deliver on its promise to provide every home with broadband by 2012. It claims the UK's falling behind on broadband provision and that employers need to stump up some more cash for videoconferencing technology to help people work in "novel" ways.

This all makes perfect sense, although I'm not sure how 'fresh' the concept of flex working is -- organisations like the Work Foundation and Working Families have long been advocates. It's a happy convergence of the interests of environmental, employer and employee needs, but speaks volumes about how few companies are working flexibly already.

The fact that the CBI's encouraging employers to offer staggered working hours suggests it's not high on employers' agendas already. Isn't that surprising? Flexible hours are a simple way of according employees autonomy, they may save a small business on property costs, they encourage accountability, cut down on time-wasting commutes... I'm curious as to why employers -- or employees -- don't already recognise the benefits. Or is the CBI preaching to the converted. Let us know if you've got a view.