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Increased flexible working is changing the role of the office

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Flexible working is increasingly becoming the norm, as today's professionals are demanding a new deal from their employers, seeking more control over how and where they work.

The 2007 Flexible Working Survey, sponsored by Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions, shows the latest changes to traditional working practices across Europe.
The survey concludes that the office is no longer the only place where people work. It now functions more as a collaborative working environment where employees come to meet and interact. Consequently, increasing numbers of people are spending less time based in the office and more time working remotely or from home.  This is further reinforced by a significant increase in the provision of hot desks, and a comparable decrease in allocated workstations.
Paul Bartlett, chairman of the Office Productivity Network which endorses the survey, comments: "This year's survey demonstrates how we are moving on from the flexibility of time to encompass flexibility of place, both within an organisation's premises and the varied locations at which people can now work. The emphasis on corporate space is now as a place for interaction and communication. This throws up new challenges for those seeking to design service and manage offices that maximise workforce productivity."
The results, according to Paul "demonstrate that to achieve optimal performance the emphasis should now be on managing people and not just passively providing a workplace."
Of the participants from across Europe who took part in this year's survey: 35% do not consider it important to go to the office 90% do not attempt to personalise their workspace More than 60 per cent consider their working status as 'Multi Mobile' – a combination of office, home and remote working 70% consider themselves totally location independent, with the ability to work from anywhere at anytime.
More than 70% find it easy to separate work and home life and feel it is important to do so. Between 55% to 72% of mobile and home workers use web, video or telephone conferencing
However, it's not all positive and around 40% feel that flexible working may reduce their chances of promotion. A similar number feel socially isolated from colleagues as a consequence of not being permanently based in the office.  
But what does flexible working really mean for business? The answer is that changes to traditional working practices are being made to embrace flexible working.  As a result businesses are beginning to put collaborative working environments high on the agenda and provide new modes of working to help attract and retain talent.
Traditional business operations also seem to be changing.  The new technologies which have helped enable flexible working also mean that an increasing number of virtual teams are being created; enabling people who have never met, or who are based in different countries, to work together.
Companies are also becoming 'boundary-less' with employees increasingly working away from the office, on client premises and at home.
Douglas Weinrich, regional executive at Johnson Controls Global Workplace Solutions South Africa, adds: "We have started seeing the development of this trend in South Africa. As more Generation X and Y's enter the established workforce, the prevalence of this level of mobility and flexibility is rising. While the workplace still plays an essential role, it is more as a place where people meet, share ideas, interact and socialise.
"There is evidence of a high level of employee engagement with staff taking control of their way of working and their workplace. As competition for talented professionals increases, businesses are responding by providing the structure and environment that workers demand.
"This year, the results further backed the trends demonstrated last year, and we can certainly conclude that flexible working is firmly established in our ways of working.
"Work is social. Collaborative interaction at work is increasingly facing new challenges along with creating an environment that stimulates productivity and performance."