Inflexible working ‘damages health’

British office culture is detrimental to the health and home lives of many workers and too few employers are backing up rhetoric on flexible working with real action, according to a new global study by workplace provider Regus.

Over a third of UK office workers report that they have to sacrifice sleep to fit in personal and work commitments, either by waking up too early or by burning the midnight oil. One in five working parents say they have missed an important occasion such as their child’s birthday party, school play or parents evening.

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The survey is based on interviews with more than 24,000 business people from over 90 countries (3,000 in the UK).

UK workers highlight a shorter commute (21%) and greater flexibility in work location (16%) as ways to help them spend more time spend with their families and get enough sleep.

The study shows that three quarters of office workers now believe that flexible working makes them more productive. Some 84% believe that giving staff a choice of work location and hours improves loyalty to their employer and, ultimately, staff retention.

However, three quarters of staff (72%) say their manager is likely to view workers arriving early and leaving late as the most hard-working. One in five feel they have to overcompensate for time taken off for personal or family matters. And only one in two managers is currently rewarded for encouraging a flexible work environment (48%). Previous research from Regus has shown that 38 % of companies only give flexible working options to senior staff.

Steve Purdy, UK Managing Director at Regus, says: “Lack of sleep is clearly detrimental to worker health and happiness, and it is recognised that long working hours are closely linked to heart disease.

“With all the talk about flexible working, it is surprising that so many company cultures seem out of kilter with the rhetoric. They don’t seem to realise the win-win benefits that flexible working can bring on both the employee and company side.

“However, from the changing profile of our customer base, we know that more firms are embracing flexible working and reaping the rewards. Every day we see more and more remote workers drop into our business lounges, for instance, as an alternative to commuting to their main office. The memberships are often purchased by their employers, because they know full well that their staff will be more productive than if they work at home, they will get home quicker to their families and they will appreciate the flexibility and refreshing change of routine.”

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