Feeling the pressure to be present? By David Plumb, General Manager for Enterprise, O2

We've spent a year hearing about news of economic downturns and slow rates of growth in the UK and yet the engine of business continues as it has always done. What's not apparent is the effect that this is having on employees and businesses up and down the country in terms of working every day – the who, the how and the where.


Research we're launching today reveals an interesting tale about the state of flexible working in offices up and down the country today. The major finding was that the stuttering UK economy is driving a culture of presenteeism in organisations – 41% of employees feel pressure to be present and visible in the office as a result of the economic climate.

Moreover, employees’ views on flexible working fundamentally differ to those of their employers. The employee perspective reveals that more than a quarter (27%) believe their performance is primarily measured by the time they spend in the office rather than the outputs that they deliver and the same number feel that they’re prevented from working flexibly by their line manager. Added to this, almost a third (31%) think their employer takes a narrow view of flexible working and fails to capitalise on potential benefits such as increased productivity, reduced costs and maximising competitiveness.

Yet a separate study we conducted with business decision-makers reveals that this culture of presenteeism flies in the face of what employers actually want, with more than a third (39%) stating that allowing staff to work flexible hours makes their business more productive whilst 43% say it helps retain employees.

The findings come as O2 launches a call for a new approach to flexible working – one which enables employees to work productively regardless of time and location and with the secure access to the tools they need to deliver their job on a business or personal device. In supporting this call, O2 is launching a new service – Joined Up People, part of its Joined Up Business vision – designed to prepare and equip businesses to maximise the use of ICT in their business and to capitalise on the positive potential flexible working provides. With Joined Up People, O2 now provides businesses with the infrastructure, consulting and services to enable all types of businesses and their workforces to increase productivity, reduce costs and maximise competitiveness through flexible working.

Our research suggests large numbers of businesses are missing out on the productivity gains, improved employee and customer engagement and efficient processes that such flexible working practices can deliver. We've found that flexible working has different mindsets depending on if you're the employee or the employer, and that employees spending more time at their desks – because they believe they have to – isn't going to contribute to driving UK business forward.

For more on Joined Up People, visit http://www.o2.co.uk/enterprise/joined-up-people/productive-people/