Guest blog: The sounds of the office - By Dr Harriet Shortt, Associate Professor in Organisational Studies, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England

Guest blog: The sounds of the office - By Dr Harriet Shortt, Associate Professor in  Organisational Studies, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England

Think about the sounds of your office or place of work. Phones ringing; printer printing; coffee machines percolating; office banter; traffic; laughter; raised voices; steps down a corridor; the hubbub of the canteen; the lift ‘pinging’; the clicking of heating pipes in a radiator; the gentle whir of a laptop; the hum of a hairdryer; the swish of a mop; the car engine; the radio; the colleague next to you eating their lunch…

Our senses are varied but our understanding and exploration of the sounds of work is limited. Contemporary organisational research and debate in this area is strangely silent and there is a sort of hierarchy to the senses where images and the visualisation of work and our offices make up a vast part of our hyper-visible/ visual society. In this blog (which is a kind of think-piece on the topic), I’d like to suggest we consider what we hear at work and why it might be important. What are the sounds of the workplace? What do employees hear when they are at work and what do these sounds mean to them? Do you have music in the office – if so, should it be a playlist or the radio? And what are the ‘unmanaged sounds’; the murmurs and auditory normality of everyday life? As is often the case with the familiar and the ordinary, we let it pass us by and rarely stop and examine (or listen to!) how these aspects of work may give us greater insight into the cultural experiences of everyday life in an organisation.

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Guest blog: Being smart about flexible working - By Stefanie Reissner, Newcastle University & Michal Izak, University of Roehampton

More and more office workers now can work flexibly: from home or a café, interspersed with the school run or a lunch with friends – and without the commute. Such flexibility brings opportunities and challenges for individuals and organizations, which we have researched thanks to funding by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.

The advantages of flexible working are already well documented. It allows individuals to have greater control over their time and combine work with other commitments. Gone are the days when carers (particularly women) had to decide between working and caring. Now, parents and grandparents can attend a school play in the afternoon and catch up with work in the evening, helping them to improve their work-life balance. Or they can work at a nearby café whilst their offspring attends an extracurricular sport activity they needed a lift from parents to get to. Similarly, carers can now attend appointments with external parties during the day and finish off their work later without having to book time off, helping them to shoulder the burden. Our research (and that of others) has found that staff will often repay their organization by working longer and harder.

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Guest blog: The homeworking revolution has stalled - what's gone wrong? - By Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the TUC

Guest blog: The homeworking revolution has stalled - what's gone wrong? - By Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the TUC

Millions of working people would like to work from home, at least some of the time. And organisations that facilitate homeworking have been shown to be happier and more productive places to work.

For those with caring responsibilities – most commonly women – homeworking can be a gamechanger, allowing them to balance work and care rather than having to leave the workplace altogether.

And it makes work more accessible too, with 200,000 disabled people working from home.

It’s also good for employers: boosting motivation, making a company more attractive to new talent, and ensuring that experienced staff don’t have to quit if their circumstances change.

Today is National Work from Home Day, an event organised by Work Wise UK to highlight the benefits of working from home as part of creating smarter workplaces across the UK.

Unfortunately, new figures published by the TUC today reveal that the number of people regularly working from home in 2017 (1.6. million) remained unchanged from the year before. 

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Guest blog: Embracing technology to improve productivity and boost the economy - By Gerry Brennan, CEO of Cloudbooking - a UK based agile solutions provider.

Guest blog: Embracing technology to improve productivity and boost the economy - By Gerry Brennan, CEO of Cloudbooking - a UK based agile solutions provider.

Whilst previous UK economic downturns have always seen a bounce back in economic growth following an initial dip in productivity, 2008’s financial crisis has been different. In the years since the last UK recession, productivity has remained low, in spite of the reduction in unemployment levels.

The UK economy has only grown 9.7 per cent since the downturn; only returning to its pre-recession size in quarter two 2013, making it the slowest recovery in terms of output since the 1920s.

Last year in particular, the UK slipped to the bottom of the table when it came to growth in its economy. As other EU countries experienced growth, the UK saw a slowdown.

This is surprising, considering that the unemployment rates have dropped a staggering 4 per cent in the past four years; reaching a 40-year low of 4.3 per cent.

One would think that employment and productivity were correlated, however, this doesn’t appear to be the case at present. Whilst the Netherlands, Germany and the US, each of which have similar or better employment rates, all have a 30 per cent or greater advantage in the output generated for every hour worked.

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Guest blog: Can your wardrobe impact performance at work? - By Katherine Anstey, writing on behalf of Next UK

Guest blog: Can your wardrobe impact performance at work? - By Katherine Anstey, writing on behalf of Next UK

The smart vs. casual debate 

The smart vs. casual debate is by no means a new one, but it is one that’s becoming ever more prominent for workers around the UK. With daily questions including “how causal is too casual?” or “is it acceptable to wear denim to work?” – it’s a topic on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

A YouGov survey last year asked the public what they would ideally like to wear for work, and revealed that over half (57%) would want a smart causal dress code, with interestingly only 18% opting for formal wear if they had the choice. But should the question really be: “What should we wear to help boost our performance at work?”

With that in mind, Fashion retailer Next wanted to delve deeper into the concept of female workwear psychology as part of Work Wise Week 2018. So we interviewed Dr Paillard, a Senior lecturer and course leader for BSc Psychology of Fashion at the London College of Fashion, to find out more about the psychology behind how what we wear can impact how we perform at work. Next also spoke to TV presenter and style icon Emma Willis, to find out what she wears to feel most powerful and confident, as well as helping to give some style inspiration next time you’re looking to ooze confidence at work. 

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