Mistrust of employees halts a greater uptake of Anywhere Working

Microsoft-commissioned study reveals vast majority of office workers say they are more productive working away from the office but fear how it is perceived by their colleagues.

According to a new study on flexible working commissioned by Microsoft, a massive 70 per cent of British office workers, who are able to work away from the office, say they can get ‘more done’ working away from the office and critically over one third (38 per cent) say they can be more creative when they are able to work flexibly. Despite this, the research commissioned for the Anywhere Working Consortium suggests that flexible working is being held back by cultural barriers related to trust, with employees concerned about how colleagues perceive them when not working in the office, and a feeling that flexible working is only about ‘working from home’.

According to findings of the study, nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of the UK office workforce did not believe there was complete trust when working outside the office. This was identified as the biggest barrier to anywhere working, with not having access to the right technology cited by just 24 per cent as an issue.

To coincide with Anywhere Working Week the Ipsos MORI study of British office workers revealed that when working away from the office, employees tend to overcompensate in order to quash colleagues’ negative perceptions. Nearly half (47 per cent) make a conscious attempt to be extra visible by sending more emails and making more phone calls. Almost one in three (30 per cent) feel guilty about not being in the office, with 39 per cent working longer hours to prove they are not ‘shirking from home’.

Yet, despite these challenges, the benefits of flexible work-styles can bring to businesses are clearly understood. 92 per cent of office workers did not see being less productive/more distractions as the biggest barrier to flexible working. A similar number (90 per cent), said they didn’t think they would find it harder to work with other people when working away from the office.

Similarly, the main drivers and motivators for flexible working are focused around productivity and concentrating on getting work done, rather than reacting to travel issues, illness or company demands. Surprisingly, only 22 per cent cited childcare as a reason for working away from the office. This challenges perceptions around the main reasons why employees are seen to want to work flexibly and goes against many flexible working policies, which promote flexible work-styles as a means of accommodating parents’ responsibilities.

Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft comments: “People don’t need to be shackled to their desks to be productive or to collaborate with their colleagues. Work should be a thing you do not a place you go. Flexible working is more about choosing a location that best suits your requirements to get the job done. This can mean working from a variety of locations during the day, be that on the move, a shared knowledge hub, a coffee shop, a remote office or at home if need be.”

Philip Ross, founder and CEO of UnWork.com comments: “The research indicates that when people are away from the office, they may well be more productive but feel paranoid they are viewed as absent and so do their best to be as visible as possible. There is a risk that workers will prioritise presenteeism over effectiveness and this won’t be the right approach for them or the organisations that employ them. The conversation should be about the work we do and how and where we can be most productive. Arguing about which single location is best misses the point entirely.”

The study was carried out in March 2013 by Ipsos MORI of a representative GB sample of 1,000 office workers. It was commissioned by Microsoft on behalf of the Anywhere Working Consortium. The second annual Anywhere Working Week too place from March 18-22, and involved a multi-city campaign to encourage businesses to review the way people work and to promote the benefits of flexible work-styles.

Download the Anywhere Working Guide here.

About the Anywhere Working Consortium

The Anywhere Working Consortium was unveiled in November 2011 by Transport Minister, Norman Baker MP. Its purpose is to educate, promote and encourage participation in new flexible working practices. Founded by Microsoft and supported by organisations like, Intel, Nokia, Vodafone, TfL and DfT, the Anywhere Working Consortium’s objectives include helping companies to increase productivity, improve quality of life, reduce impact on the environment and achieve cost savings.

All Consortium members contribute learning’s and offerings that demonstrate the productivity benefits, cost, time and environmental savings of working flexibly. Microsoft understands that technology alone will not change behaviour , but unified communications tools, collaboration suites, productivity tools and cloud services offer a way for the vision of flexible working to be realised.

For further information, please visit www.anywhereworking.org.