Workplaces: changing for the better?

Posted on Aug 10th, 2016 | Productivity

Workplaces: changing for the better?, image of people at a desk

A study by the Virgin Media Group and YouGov found that 84% of people believe traditional 9-5 business hours apply less now compared with ten years ago. Could this signal the decline of office culture and a change in work environments?

Self-employed is becoming the norm… almost

Gone is the desire to clock in and out, Monday to Friday. Being self-employed is on-trend and more of us are taking the leap to setting up our own business than before. There are currently over 4.6 million people registered as self-employed in the UK and 6% of the UK workforce consider themselves a freelancer.

Many are shunning the traditional route of further education and going into apprenticeships. The Government has committed to delivering 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 – this could see a generational wave of more people registering as self-employed in the future.

More and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of being self-employed. With fewer employees willing to work in offices, will workplaces be forced to adapt?

The rise of the remote worker

When friends find out that I work remotely, it’s often greeted with “Oh cool, you get to lie in bed and work in your pyjamas all day?” No, actually – and even if I did, you should be more concerned about the fact I’m lying in bed in my pyjamas all day.

Working from home is pretty much exactly the same as working in an office. You get up, get dressed, go into your workspace – whether that’s a desk in your bedroom, a lavish sanctuary in the west wing, or the kitchen table – switch on your computer, muddle about making some tea, and then crack on.

Otherwise known as remote working, this modern-day-no-office-solution is fast becoming the norm for many companies. Virgin Media Group found that in the next six years, 60% of office-based employees will regularly work from home.

The benefits of allowing an employee to work remotely are tenfold; the trust the employee is given builds a strong bond with the business. Remote workers are reportedly 13% more productive, and alongside this, a business can save money on overheads with less staff in the office.

Technological changes

Communication tools such as Slack are setting the precedent for how office workers (and remote workers) communicate with each other. Why get up and walk across the office to check in with Phyllis in accounts if you can quickly and simply ping her a message that she’ll see instantaneously? This change in comms culture is reshaping the workplace.

Business owners are always on the lookout for ways to both monitor employee performance and motivate staff. Why not combine the two and introduce wearables into the work environment?

It might sound a touch trite, but technological advances, especially over the past twenty years, have reshaped the culture of the office. Everything has gone electronic. We email, text, iMessage, chat, speak, and communicate via machines. Often these devices allow us to stay in contact with the office even when it’s closed for business. Who hasn’t shot off a work-related email after 5pm?

The way we wear and manage our tech is hinting at a shift in responsibility and changes to the way we manage the workplace.

Workplaces are adapting

Bristol based company Coexist raised a few eyebrows when they recently set out plans to introduce a ‘period policy‘. Director Bex Baxter designed the protocol to allow women time off when they’re having their periods, with an overall aim to improve creativity and efficiency.

Baxter was quoted as saying:

“There is a misconception that taking time off makes a business unproductive – actually, it is about synchronising work with the natural cycles of the body. When women are having their periods they are in a winter state, when they need to regroup, keep warm and nourish their bodies.

“The spring section of the cycle immediately after a period is a time when women are actually three times as productive as usual.”

While Bristol might be the first city in the UK to offer this kind of benefit, it seems Europe is a long way behind other continents. Asia leads the globe when it comes to period benefits: South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia all allow women time off when the monthly curse arrives.

For some business owners, the idea of a period policy has made them see red. Activists have sprung up to enquire whether the idea of giving women time off during their period panders to the fact women are stereotypically deemed less logical and rational when menstruating.

Defenders of the period policy have struck back, asking “if men suffered from chronic pain every month, would we be having this conversation?”

Does the notion of a period policy and the idea of discussing periods more openly in the workplace signal a shift in attitudes toward women? More women are starting a business than ever before, and while the figures trail behind the male counterparts, an awareness of women in the workplace is taking a step toward equality and bridging the gender divide.


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Written by Claire Beveridge

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