Going home to the office Work to live and not live to work. That's how it is supposed to be. But we spend so many of our waking hours at work ­ 100,000 in a lifetime ­ how realistic is it to separate the two? The technological revolution was, by now, supposed to allow us to work less and work from home. Yet we seem to have longer working hours and travel the equivalent of 13 times around the world to get to and from work in our working life. When the new economy arrived the experts said it would all be so different. Instead of putting in 47 hours a week, 47 weeks a year for 47 years, as previous generations had done, we would be cutting our lifetime working hours in half ­ to 50,000 ­ because of our increased efficiency. The life of leisure beckoned and we would have to find new pursuits to fill all that extra time. But today's experts have quite a different vision of the future. They believe that it will not be unusual to ask the question, Are you happier at work than at home?' and that in the future there may be little reason to go home at all. Corporate villages' will have a granny crèche, breakfast made by an on-site chef, a desk massage mid-morning, an energising sauna at lunchtime, and to finish the day off, a session of psychotherapy or drinking time at the company bar. There will even be a designated nap area. It will be no surprise to learn that this trend has already started Stateside, in California. Employers there must go to great lengths to retain qualified, and increasingly finicky, staff. Perks such as health insurance and pension plans are very passé. Enter the benefits war'. Some US companies have on site jogging trails or en suite loft bedrooms. The pressure is on for employers, but perks don't have to be expensive. They may be as simple as allowing employees to take their pets to work, which is considered a low cost attraction and a retention technique. According to the Industrial Society's research, the corporate village idea is starting to take off in the UK, due to the skills shortage and retention issues. British Airways has taken the concept literally. Its state of the art headquarters near Heathrow have been designed as a series of roads and neighbourhoods. There are six four-storey buildings, each with its own individually styled courtyard, arranged on either side of a long glazed atrium, known as The Street'. Weekly shopping can be ordered electronically from an in-house Waitrose and there is a fitness centre and hairdresser. There are also restaurants, a bank and a flower shop. And the employees are known as residents'! Whether companies take up the whole concept or just certain elements, there can only be an increase in this type of set-up. Employers in the UK are now offering services that you would have had to go home for a decade ago Most of the big corporations offer access to a gym, laundry services and counselling. Some companies even offer discounts at dating agencies for those hard worked employees who don't get time to get out and meet potential partners. Advertising agencies have play areas stocked with computer games, pool tables and table football. Some provide scooters or skateboards to get around the office. But are these real benefits or elements of a fun atmosphere to help the creative process? The long and short of it is that the more attractive you make the workplace, the longer employees will stay there and this is where the employers get a return. Implicit in the offer of online shopping or a financial adviser is the suggestion that you don't have time to do it at home as you are working all the hours God sends. Leaving work at 5pm or even 6pm is unnecessary, even rude. Anyway, the workplace is more attractive than your home because you spend so much time there that your colleagues are your main circle of friends. Some companies have specific strategies to promote the corporate family'. Unilever, for example, employs people onto its graduate recruitment scheme who it believes will "become friends". However, just as people need breaks to be productive in the short term, they need a life away from the office to be productive in the long term. Long hours have been proved to cause a fall in productivity. Maybe more companies should offer duvet days' ­ optional days off for staff when they feel like it, or paid sabbaticals after a certain length of service and new initiatives that encourage staff to enjoy their own time. Staff should say at the end of the day, "I'm outta here. The services are lovely and it's one of the reasons I work here. But I have my own life too." {{LEADING EDGE }}