With the rising cost of stress and absence, work and external pressures, more organisations are adopting a flexible approach to employees work arrangements in a bid to address the work/life balance and retain talent, without necessarily reducing an employee's productivity.

Vodafone surveyed 1,000 managers across the UK private and public sector, and discovered that most are open to new ways of working, including allowing employees to carry out personal tasks during 'traditional' work time. Their key findings discovered that);

  • the nine-to-five work day is on the way out, according to seven out of ten British bosses
  • two-thirds of managers (65%) ask employees to work outside work hours, at least occasionally, and almost the same number (63%) don't mind if staff do personal tasks during work hours.
  • bosses are tolerant of employee's personal calls, emails, Facebook, Twitter and booking appointments, but draw the line at staff doing their weekly shop online during work time.

Seventy percent (70%) of UK managers believe that '9 to 5' working is dying out in favour of more flexible working arrangements. Among these forward-looking bosses, nine out of ten enable their staff to work flexibly to some extent, rather than expect them to stick rigidly to traditional working hours. Bosses revealed themselves to be relatively open-minded about when and how work is done. Six out of ten managers (63%) said that they did not mind staff doing personal things such as calling family members or checking their social networking accounts, as long as they get their work done.

Peter Kelly, Enterprise Director at Vodafone UK, said: "What this research shows is that a cultural shift has started. For many people in the UK, the way we work is changing. Britain's bosses are realising that successful businesses must focus on generating results, not on monitoring what employees do at their desks."

The 'quid pro quo' is that nearly two-thirds of managers (65%) occasionally ask their employees to work outside of traditional office hours. There is a marked difference between the private sector, where nearly 70% of managers request extra hours from staff, and the public sector, where 58% do so. 15% of private sector managers were also more likely to say that working outside of normal office hours is the expected norm compared with just 8% of public sector managers stating the same. Remarkably there is a gender attitude towards working outside of '9 to 5' - more female bosses (38.6%) than male bosses (30.6 percent) said that they never ask their staff to work outside of normal office hours. Likewise, 15.4 per cent of male managers say it's expected for staff to work outside of working hours, compared with only 9.6 per cent of women.

Of the bosses who do ask their employees to work outside work hours, the vast majority (93 per cent) think that it is only fair that staff sometimes attend to personal tasks during work time, although mostly (73%) with the caveat that it has to be done in moderation.

"A new generation of workers is coming through the ranks. They prefer fitting work around their lives rather than the other way around. People don't mind doing some work in the evening or at the weekend, but in return, they expect bosses to cut them some slack so they can see to personal chores."

The survey also showed that bosses appreciate the impact of technology on modern working patterns: 62% think the line between work and personal life has become blurred since people started using smartphones and working from home. This was felt more strongly in the private sector (66%) than in the public sector (56%).

The trend towards mobile and home working is well established, but still has some way to go. Altogether, six out of ten managers said that they allow their employees to work from home to some extent. However, only 15% provide employees with the tools for doing so (such as laptops, broadband connectivity and remote access to company systems), while just over two-fifths of managers rely on employees using their own technology if they want to work from home.

Currently, only 12% of bosses equip their employees with smartphones as standard, while around one-third (34%) give smartphones to some staff. Another 15 per cent reimburse employees for using their own smartphones. Peter Kelly explained: "Working smarter, not harder has become a bit of a cliche, but that's exactly what's needed, and the technology now exists to make this a reality. Therefore, finding ways to effectively harness technology to the benefit of businesses and employees should be high on the list of priorities for UK bosses."

The study reflected some of the impact of 'Generation Y', coming through the ranks and into management positions. Generation Y employees are generally perceived as being highly connected and technology-literate, not drawing distinct lines between their work and social lives, and seeking a working environment with less rigid structures that they can emotionally engage with. Peter Kelly added: "Clearly Britain's bosses are open to the 'Generation Y' ways of working. However, they still have some way to go to realise fully how much this change in working culture and attitudes can benefit them."