UK workers reject 'graveyard' offices

UK workers reject 'graveyard' offices

Flexible and mobile working the way forward, claims survey

Workers in the UK are beginning to rethink how they spend their time in the office, according to the results of a survey commissioned by The Work Foundation and Microsoft.

Only 11 per cent of respondents perceive their office as a 'creative environment', and more than a third describe their place of work as 'uninspiring'.

The most important considerations when looking for a job, aside from salary, are friendly colleagues (cited by 64 per cent) and a friendly boss (51 per cent).

However, there is clearly a desire to move to a new working culture, as 78 per cent of respondents believe that working out of the office is the future of the workplace.
The survey also revealed that more than half of UK office workers would be happier with a greater element of mobile working, while 16 per cent would leave their jobs within six months if their boss was not open to flexible working.

"We need to redefine the term 'office work'," said James McCarthy, mobile working expert at Microsoft.

"Far too many of us endure a daily commute, only to sit at our desks and work on jobs that we could do from anywhere with an internet connection.

"So when in the office, I urge workers to consider leaving their desks and taking the opportunity to go and interact with their colleagues instead."

McCarthy argues that office workers should prioritise their working day and use office time for face-to-face meetings and other interpersonal activities.

Reports, presentations and other more "cerebral stuff" can be saved for a location better suited to total concentration.

"Office noise is often seen as a distraction, when it is actually a good barometer for the creativity and energy of an office," said McCarthy.

"Arguably the worst place for tasks that require total concentration is at your desk. We should be using our office time to make the most of the relationships we have with colleagues."

The report points to new breed of worker that sees the office as just one location that is key to their job rather than the only location.

One of the considerations is the effect that working away from the office can have on interpersonal and team relationships. Using office time more carefully to build and maintain those relationships is a potential solution to this problem.

"Work is increasingly about the quality of output, and not just the quantity of input such as time spent at your desk," said Nick Isles, director of advocacy at The Work Foundation.

"Giving office-based workers more control over when, where and how they produce good work means being ultra flexible, not begrudgingly flexible.

"Time spent in the office is important. But that should be only some of the time, not all of the time, if organisations want the best from their workforce. "

Almost half of the employees questioned felt that their work-life balance could be improved. McCarthy argued that for many companies there is no reason, other than force of habit, to follow established working practices.

The report concludes that a wholesale change in the way workers think about office time could offer surprising benefits. But it warns that such change is not possible for everyone and should not be considered without limitations.