By Marcus Leach

Seventy per cent of UK managers think that the old idea of '9 to 5' working is dying out in favour of more flexible working arrangements, according to a new survey commissioned by Vodafone.

Among these forward-looking bosses, nine out of ten enable their staff to work flexibly to some extent, rather than expect them to stick rigidly to traditional working hours.

Bosses revealed themselves to be relatively open-minded about when and how work is done. Six out of ten managers (63 per cent) said that they did not mind staff doing personal things like calling family members or checking their social networking accounts, as long as they get their work done.

“What this research shows is that a cultural shift has started. For many people in the UK, the way we work is changing. Britain’s bosses are realizing that successful businesses must focus on generating results, not on monitoring what employees do at their desks,” Peter Kelly, enterprise director at Vodafone UK, said.

The 'quid pro quo' is that nearly two-thirds of managers (65 per cent) ask their employees to work outside of traditional office hours, at least occasionally. There is a marked difference between the private sector, where nearly 70 per cent of managers request extra hours from staff, and the public sector, where 58 per cent do so.

Private sector managers were also more likely to say that working outside of normal office hours is now expected (15 per cent) than their counterparts in the public sector (8 per cent).

Differing attitudes towards working outside of the 9 to 5 are also obvious between men and women. More female (38.6 per cent) than male bosses (30.6 per cent) said that they never ask their staff to work outside of normal office hours.

Likewise, 15.4 per cent of male managers say it's expected for staff to work outside of working hours, compared with only 9.6 per cent of women.
Of the bosses who do ask their employees to work outside work hours, the vast majority (93 per cent) think that it is only fair that staff sometimes attend to personal tasks during work time, although mostly (73 per cent) with the caveat that it has to be done in moderation.

“A new generation of workers is coming through the ranks. They prefer fitting work around their lives rather than the other way around. People don’t mind doing some work in the evening or at the weekend, but in return, they expect bosses to cut them some slack so they can see to personal chores,” Kelly continued.

Most UK managers are happy for employees to take personal calls, check social networking sites, book appointments, and send personal emails during work hours, at least in moderation. However, respondents drew the line at staff doing their weekly shop online from work, which around two- thirds (64 per cent) took exception to.

The survey also showed that bosses appreciate the impact of technology on modern working patterns: 62 per cent think the line between work and personal life has become blurred since people started using smartphones and working from home. This was felt more strongly in the private sector (66 per cent) than in the public sector (56 per cent).

The trend towards mobile and home working is well established, but still has some way to go. Altogether, six out of ten managers (59 per cent) said that they allow their employees to work from home to some extent.

However, only 15 per cent provide employees with the tools for doing so (such as laptops, broadband connectivity and remote access to company systems), while just over two-fifths (43 per cent) of managers rely on employees using their own technology if they want to work from home.

Currently, only 12 per cent of bosses equip their employees with smartphones as standard, while around one-third (34 per cent) give smartphones to some staff. Another 15 per cent reimburse employees for using their own smartphones.

“Working smarter, not harder has become a bit of a cliché, but that’s exactly what’s needed, and the technology now exists to make this a reality. Therefore, finding ways to effectively harness technology to the benefit of businesses and employees should be high on the list of priorities for UK bosses,” Peter Kelly explained.

The study reflected some of the impact of ‘Generation Y’ — those born after 1982 — coming through the ranks and into management positions. Generation Y employees are generally perceived as being highly connected and technology-literate, not drawing distinct lines between their work and social lives, and seeking a working environment with less rigid structures that they can emotionally engage with.

“Clearly Britain’s bosses are open to the ‘Generation Y’ ways of working. However, they still have some way to go to realize fully how much this change in working culture and attitudes can benefit them," Peter Kelly added.

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