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Hot-desking could save the UK £34 billion a year

The UK could save itself £34 billion by freeing up desk space and encouraging flexible working, according to research from Vodafone UK.

The report said that using shared workspaces, 'flexi-desks' and enabling employees to work remotely, would save businesses on property and desk costs, while simultaneously improving the cross-fertilisation of ideas and a sense of community in the workplace. It said that tying an employee to one location in an office could reduce opportunities for collaboration and team working.

It also said that the savings to be made were far greater than most employers realised. Employers reckoned that the average saving per desk would be £441, whereas Vodafone cited a figure of £5,746 per desk.

Most employers surveyed (62 per cent) already recognised that flexible working could create a happier workforce and more than three-quarters (77 per cent) said that they measured success by results rather than time spent in the office. Despite this, nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of employers didn't have any flexible-working policies in place, and less than a fifth (18 per cent) had a 'hot-desk' policy.

Hot-desking is when staff spend time working away from their office, and share desks with colleagues when they are in. As well as reducing costs and saving office space, it can improve productivity as people are less interrupted by the everyday distractions of the workplace. Staff turnover and absence rates have often been found to improve too.

On the downside, providing suitable technology to make hot-desking work can be expensive and some people may find the reduced contact socially isolating. Managers sometimes find it harder to communicate with remote workers, who in turn may find it more difficult to advance their careers.

Acas can help your organisation implement and manage an effective flexible-working system, and has published the Advisory booklet - Flexible working and work-life balance for employers and employees. Acas also provides training on Flexible working and how it relates to work-life balance and family-related policies.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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