Global survey predicts 'death of the office'

Employees equally productive working from home

The office workplace that has dominated business since the 19th Century is dying and most employees would be quite happy not to work in it, a global study by networking giant Cisco has found.

This is a striking theme of the Cisco Connected World Report, which found that 60 per cent of employees from 2,600 surveyed across 13 countries do not think it necessary to be in an office to be productive.

An even greater number, 66 per cent, would be prepared to work for lower pay if a job offered more flexibility, at least when compared with a better-paid job without such flexibility.

Businesses are uncertain about the move to home working, mainly because of security. According to the Cisco survey, they should also factor in some of the advantages. Almost half of those employees who do work from home reckon they put in between two and three extra work hours per day as a result.

Employees' dislike of offices is nothing new but what has changed is that it is now technically possible to make an employee productive without asking them to travel to a building every day.

It should also be noted that companies such as Cisco stand to benefit from the investment in making remote working possible and secure. There is clearly a limited future in selling businesses ever more powerful office networks, which is what has allowed tier one companies such as Cisco to thrive until now.

Companies can find out more or less what they want from surveys based on subjective reactions, especially ones averaged across many countries. Do such surveys tell the world anything useful or just give journalists and public relations people something to talk about?

It seems just as likely that the death of the office, predicted many times in the last 40 years, might be as much about the changing economics of work than any desire of employees to escape to the back room and the VPN.

In future, more and more employees will work for more than one employer or change work location too often to make a monolithic office worth travelling to.

Readers who don't mind putting up with a bit of US-style corporate propaganda can view a video presentation on the research on Cisco TV.

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John E Dunn

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