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UK companies could save a whopping £34 billion by adopting better flexible working policies and reducing the number of desk spaces they manage, according to YouGov research.

The research, conducted on behalf of Vodafone, was based on questioning 500 business decision makers. The majority of them "are grossly underestimating what is possible to save", says the research, with 65% insisting their business "can’t lose any desks".

Business decision makers who thought they could save desk space through flexible working estimated they could lose an average of 46 desks, according to the YouGov poll.

But even they vastly underestimate the value of those desks, citing an average saving of £441 per desk – not even 10% of the £5,746 average cost of a desk in the UK (according to major property company DTZ).

Based on respondents’ estimates of the number of desks they could lose - 46 - those businesses stand to save an average of £260,000 per year.

But 21% thought that their employees remained rooted to the old principle that all employees should have their own desk space, and 23% that flexible working "ultimately leads to employees taking advantage of the system".

Some 77% of business decision makers agreed that they measure success by results rather than time spent in the office, yet only one in five thought that they could get rid of desks through flexible working, and 33% haven’t even considered flexible working as a way of cutting costs.

Jeroen Hoencamp, enterprise director at Vodafone UK, said: “We need to get Britain working smarter and thinking about different ways of working. A potential total saving of up to £34 billion is staggering and this research reveals businesses are underestimating the savings they can make through reducing the number of desks they have."

Last week a Citrix/YouGov report said "Digital discrimination" pervades the UK workplace, with senior management and higher social grades given more flexible working privileges and benefits in the workplace, provoking feelings of resentment and jealousy.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer also recently pulled the plug on home working in the US, while demanding a "more collaborative" approach to work on-site.

At the same time mobile operator O2 published its own research which showed a "disconnect" between what opportunities managers said they offered to staff to work flexibly, and what opportunities staff said they were being offered.