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BT is backing a scheme to get more UK firms to adopt "smarter" working practices. Work Wise UK is due to kick off next month as part of a three year programme to get more people to work remotely or from home.

Set up by not-for-profit outfit the IT Forum Foundation, Work Wise UK is particularly targeting SMEs. SMEs are the biggest collective employers in the country, yet are also least likely to allow staff to work flexibly. Those behind Work Wise UK are looking to change that to help boost productivity while safeguarding "a healthy work-life balance".

According to the latest government stats, there are around 3.1m "home workers" in the UK (people who work mainly in their own home, or in different places using home as a base) out of a total working population of 29m.

Work Wise UK believes this can be extended to half of the workforce within five years.

Of course, technology, such as the increased availability of affordable broadband and advances in mobile technology, is a vital part of flexible working, but it isn't everything. Experts say it's more about changing culture, "changing the way people work and giving them the skills to work smarter".

BT people and policy director Caroline Waters said: "Where, when and how we work is changing and today's businesses are more efficient and more flexible as a result of the networked world in which we operate.

"However, while the benefits of adopting flexible working practices are clear in terms of increased productivity and employee satisfaction, the challenge for management is to ensure that it is equipped to cope with a digitally enabled workforce." ®

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