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Work from anywhere? Only if you’re the boss

More than half of workers believe they have to be in the office to get work done, compared with less than a fifth of bosses, new research has revealed.

Despite most managers believing that allowing their staff to work from anywhere, very few employees are actually doing so.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI and backed by Microsoft to mark Flexible Working Awareness Day on Friday, found that 52% of workers agreed that it was “necessary to be present in your place of work”. However, just 19% of bosses agreed with the same statement, with the remaining 81% feeling more empowered to complete their work from anywhere.

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Around 74% of managers said enabling their employees to work wherever they wanted was “important”, with 65% believing that this would boost productivity.

However, a lack of suitable technology could be holding some workers back. Just 25% of employees surveyed used a work laptop versus 65% of managers. Similarly, only 15% of workers used an employer-owned smartphone versus 48% of managers.

Employees are also failing to bridge this gap by using their own devices, with more managers (48%) using their own smartphone for work than workers (30%).

Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, a membership organisation supporting 72,000 small businesses in the UK, said: “Two factors need to be in place for flexible working to work. Firstly, the technology. If firms don’t feel data will be secure or their employees will be able to work as productively (or more so) when out of the office, then it’s a non-starter.

“Secondly, and maybe more importantly, there needs to be a culture within the company that embraces (not just tolerates) flexible working and the benefits it can bring.

“Of the many thousands of small businesses we work with up and down the country we find that those that flourish the most are those with the most open and collaborative cultures. Providing employees with the right tools to do their job and the sense of empowerment that comes from flexible working is part of creating the right culture for success.

Man outside work with Microsoft Surface tablet laptop

Nearly three quarters (74%) of managers involved in the survey – which featured 300 workers at small and medium-sized business and 31 bosses – felt they could protect shared information wherever their employees worked – a key security consideration to enabling flexible working.