Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

January 28, 2016

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Is flexible working destroying the office environment?

personal-885550_960_720New research commissioned by facilities and building maintenance specialists Direct365 has shown that almost one in three UK employees believe that the growing availability of flexible working options is having a detrimental effect on the atmosphere in their office.

While flexible working hours are supposed to promote a good work-life balance, a leading psychologist warned that they actually cause employees to “graze” through work at all hours, leaving them little time to relax and unwind.

The survey found that 31% of British workers are concerned that traditional office culture is in danger of being lost because so many of their colleagues are able to work remotely at any given time.

stock-624712_960_720Breaking the findings down, workers over the age of 55 are the most likely to say that flexible working is having an adverse effect on team spirit. Meanwhile, the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups were among the biggest supporters of remote working provisions, which highlights a clear generational divide, says Direct365.

In June 2014, all UK employees were given the legal right to request flexible working arrangements after 26 weeks of employment. It was hoped that the introduction of such regulations would help to improve the work-life balance of the nation’s workforce, but there are arguments to suggest that the increasing prominence of remote working is actually having the opposite effect, as professionals are finding it difficult to switch off and relax.

Speaking to the Guardian in early January 2016, Prof Gail Kinman, an occupational health psychologist from the University of Bedfordshire and the British Psychological Association, suggested that more people are checking emails and taking calls outside of office hours, and as such are struggling to get enough quality sleep.

woman-653892_960_720Emma Gilroy, Brand Development Manager at Direct365, thinks that employers also need to consider the impact that their flexible working policies might have on the general ambience of their workplace.

 “This isn’t an attack on flexible working by any means. Such policies, when implemented sensibly, can be mutually beneficial for employers and employees alike,” she commented.

“However, a lot of businesses are clearly struggling to find the right balance, with one in three people stating that the atmosphere in their office has suffered because so many of their colleagues are missing at the same time.

“It’s not uncommon for somebody to be sat at their desk all on their own for an entire day because the rest of their team are either working from home or have been given permission to switch their hours. Technological advancements have made communication easy, but you really shouldn’t underestimate the importance of face-to-face contact.

“Although companies are legally obliged to consider flexible working requests from staff, they shouldn’t lose sight of how these arrangements will impact the wider team. It’s arguably far harder to build a bond and strong team ethos if everybody is working in different locations. We’re in danger of losing good old-fashioned ‘watercooler talk’!”

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Lucy Moore
Lucy Moore
8 years ago

Not much of a story. The other view is, nearly 7 out of 10 workers think flexible working is a good thing.