No such thing as a free lunch? Well there should be, say UK office workers

March 10, 2020
  • Free food more popular than flexible hours, remote working and pet-friendly offices among UK workers
  • 27% of UK office workers are spending up to as much as £940 annually on snacks and coffee to fuel their workday
  • A third (33%) of UK employees still credit flexible working patterns/environments as key for reducing stress

A nationwide survey has revealed that the most sought-after work benefit for office staff in the UK is free food – closely followed by remote working and flexible hours.

The survey of 1,500 UK office workers commissioned by build-to-rent neighbourhood operator Get Living, which provides shared workspaces for residents of its Manchester and London neighbourhoods, looked at the factors impacting work-life balance.

Almost a fifth (19%) said they’d prefer their bosses to offer free food, with remote working (16%) and flexible hours (14%) taking second and third place on the list, despite work-life balance initiatives gaining a higher profile in recent years.

Supplemented fitness perks and gym memberships lagged even further behind at 13%, with the recent trend of pets in the office taking fifth place at 12%.

According to the study more than half (55%) of office workers will splurge between £470 and £940 each year on snacks to be eaten at work, though 31% of workplaces already provide free food for employees.

Office workers cited flexible hours and remote working as key factors in reducing stress levels (33%) and improving work/life balance (49%). However, more than two thirds (68%) still don’t feel they get enough rest to perform productively at work.

Given the rising awareness of mental health and wellbeing, it’s unsurprising that employers are adapting their working week.

Manchester leads the way with flexible hours being offered to 71% of office workers whilst London lags behind Liverpool (70%), Nottingham (69%), Leeds (67%) and Edinburgh (67%) only offering this to 65% of employees. Remote working is most common in Nottingham with 43% of people able to take advantage of this, followed by London (42%) and Oxford (41%).

In addition to reducing rush-hour-induced stress, workers who work remotely would save significant money and time.  Nearly a third (32%) of people would save up to £1,000 annually by working remotely two days per week, whilst a further 14% would save as much as £1,410*.  A quarter of office workers spend an additional 68 working days commuting annually, which could be reduced to just 41 days if allowed to work remotely for two days of the week.

The most common use of time saved by not commuting was sleep, with 44% of people opting for a lie-in, unsurprising given more than two thirds (69%) of workers don’t believe they’re well-rested enough to perform their job to the best of their abilities.

Other preferred uses for this extra time include cleaning the home (43%), spending more quality time with family and friends (38%) and going to the gym (36%).

Despite the financial and wellbeing benefits, there are factors dissuading people from remote working with the lead concern for more than half (57%) being increased distractions, followed by 41% citing loneliness and a lack of interaction as a deterrent. Over a fifth (23%) admitted to being scared about what their boss and colleagues may think.

Ian Gibbs, Director of Neighbourhoods at Get Living, comments: “As we move away from the traditional 9-to-5, it’s great to see employers cultivating flexible working environments that meet the needs of their employees. So that city workers living in our homes can take full advantage of this, we’ve set up communal spaces that encourage productive home working.

“At our developments we have consistent, superfast Wi-Fi and shared workspaces within our neighbourhoods which give residents a healthy separation from their home and work lives. Not only do our communal workspaces allow for savings on time and money on commuting but they give our residents the bonus of a lie-in or a power hour of cleaning, or even taking the dog for a walk within our carefully cultivated open spaces.”

Get Living offers fully-furnished homes for rent across London at East Village E20, Stratford (Zone 2/3) and Elephant and Castle (Zone 1) and Salford, Manchester with no deposits.**

Get Living has established partnerships with more than 20 top UK organisations including Cancer Research UK, Francis Crick Institute, Deloitte, Co-op, Linklaters and MET Police, to help provide homes for their employees who may be relocating for work or simply looking for a new home and want to benefit from Get Living’s special offers.


*Annual commuter savings based on 47 weeks of the year, accounting for 25 days annual leave

** Subject to referencing

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