Beat the Credit Crunch with 'Off-Peak Chic'

British workers could save hundreds of pounds each year by ditching the office for just one day a week, according to research commissioned by Microsoft Windows Mobile.

While the discounts available for off-peak travel, gym membership, restaurants and cinemas add up to over 500 a year, British bosses remain the stumbling block.

As a national average, less than one third of UK knowledge workers - those who class an office as their primary work place - are allowed to work flexibly for just one day a week. Londoners fair better with 52% allowed to work flexibly, but for Northern Irish employees, a staggering 82% are being made to come into the office every day.

"With technology making it relatively easy to work away from the office, surely it's time to change our national fixation with the nine-to-five mentality?" says James McCarthy, mobility expert at Microsoft UK. "Flexible working can help employers and employees save money and ensure companies are in good shape to succeed whatever the future holds. Off-peak used to be a term associated with penny pinching, I say embrace the benefits that it brings!"

As the cost of living continues to rise, McCarthy argues that UK employers can use mobile working to enable employees to take advantage of off-peak offers while at the same time reducing direct business costs such as office rent, IT support, utility payments etc.

52% of workers have reduced their spending on nights out since talk of a recession first surfaced, with food and drink being the first casualties. Despite cut-price deals being offered outside 'normal' office hours 56% of respondents say that full-time work is the sole reason they can't cash in on these off-peak discounts.

If you add together the average daily commute (5) and lunch (4) and multiply that cost by the number of days worked a year (based on a 48-week average), Brits are spending over 2000 a year going to work. Just one day a week out of the office can save over 500 and that's not counting other reductions offered when most people are working.

Indeed, only 10% of respondents say they benefit from off-peak gym membership.

Adds McCarthy: "In uncertain economic times, demanding staff to be in the office is perfectly understandable. Microsoft fully believes in and supports the office environment as being crucial. However, we recognise that the need to be at your desk full time is coming to an end. Let off-peak become the new chic, let employees get the full benefit of flexible working and educate employers to the benefits of having a more mobile, more productive, more dynamic, more flexible and more cash-rich workforce!"

Fiona Pandit, Head of Partnership at The Work Foundation added: "Flexible working is unquestionably growing in the UK, but the pace of change is depressingly slow. There are companies that have been quick to respond and those that have frequently claim not just a growth of employee loyalty and satisfaction, but also in productivity, efficiency and a sense of organisational effectiveness. But far too many are stuck in a posture of just saying no. Flexible working is one of those policies that has the potential to be a real win-win for both employers and employees."

According to Petra Wilton, Director of Policy and Research, from the Chartered Management Institute: "Our own research suggests that managers are determined to cope with the pressures of their daily commute, not letting it effect their performance at work. However, to reduce stress employers should consider allowing staff to work from home or to adjust their hours, where practical. The introduction of flexible working patterns will certainly go a long way towards creating more mobile managers, and should both boost morale and increase productivity in the workplace."

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