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'Vast majority' of staff do not work flexibly - and most don't want to - BCO/YouGov report reveals

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Flexible working is “a myth” for the vast majority of employees, according to a survey of 1,000 staff by the British Council for Offices (BCO).

The report shows 79% do not work from home at all, with the YouGov poll finding employees "greatly valued" the social benefits of working in a communal space.

Being able to meet colleagues face to face (79%) and interactions with other employees (79%) were rated the top office perks, above access to technology including files and documents (61%) and better computer hardware and software (35%).

The research also found that 68% voted their personal workspace as a vital element of workplace design, one which 67% said had a positive impact on their ability to work efficiently. This comes as organisations increasingly opt to erode desk ownership through open plan office models.

Noise was seen as one of the worst aspects of the office, suggesting employees are not well served by one dimensional work places with a single design model rather than a range of working environments.

Half of all respondents (50%) said fewer interruptions was one of the biggest benefits of working from home, while 48% opted for 'quiet' and 35% said that it was easier to concentrate. This was particularly the case for women - 42% of female respondents compared to 29% of male employees could focus better in a domestic setting.

The study revealed that employers risk alienating employees by not getting their buy-in before redesigning office space to support flexible working. Only 35% of employees had ever been consulted on the design of their office space, despite the fact 77% said they would like to be involved.

The BCO is calling upon employers to take a democratic approach to office design by giving staff a say in the look and feel of their workplaces.

Gary Wingrove, President of the BCO and head of construction programme management at BT Group Property, said "We live in an age where - in theory - we can work almost anywhere. Despite this, the research suggests that employees are still inherently wedded to the office for collaboration and stimulation.

It is therefore more important than ever that businesses prioritise their staff as the ultimate end users of the workplace, and invest time and money in implementing office designs which accommodate different types of work.

In effect, offices need to become what has been referred to as 'business hotels', providing a range of settings to incorporate both the quiet and comfort of home with an interactive and social work space.

Whether cellular or open plan, without doubt it is those workplaces designed and fitted-out with the needs of employees in mind which provide a greater financial return on investment by improving staff morale and therefore levels of productivity and efficiency."

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGovStone . Total sample size was 1,001 office workers aged 16 and over. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27/09/11 and 03/10/11.

The survey was carried out online. The figures have not been weighted and are representative of all Great Britain office workers from medium and large organisations with at least 5 individuals in their office.