Office workers claim it was easier 10 years ago – and say they miss hour-lunches

ONE-hour lunch breaks, working nine to five and a simple tea round are among the things office workers miss about the past, according to a study.

The research of 2,000 office workers aged 40 and over revealed the extent to which things have changed over the years, with six in 10 saying work was ‘easier’ in previous decades.

Being able to leave work on time without feeling guilty, wearing a suit or set uniform and shutting emails down at the end of the day also feature in the list.

Others miss getting paid to work overtime and the idea of a ‘job for life’.

There are also some office items workers miss from 'back in the day' – including fax machines, typewriters, and even Tippex.

Animal charity SPANA carried out the research ahead of International Working Animal Day (15 June) to raise awareness of working animals worldwide, which face a lifetime of work, with no retirement, in appalling conditions that never change.

Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of animal charity SPANA, which provides free veterinary treatment to working animals in developing countries, said: “They say things were ‘better in my day’ and it’s clear that older workers are nostalgic about the past and a time when work felt less stressful.

“But while it can be difficult to get to grips with longer working hours, new technology and higher demands, these problems pale in comparison with the gruelling conditions endured by working animals overseas.”

The study found workers miss being able to go to the pub at lunchtime with colleagues and the days when they were allowed to have a 15-minute break in the morning and the afternoon.

Others fondly remember a time when they were rewarded with extra holiday for every year of service, and had final salary pension schemes.


1. Getting paid for working overtime
2. No one being able to call you when you were out of the office because you didn't have a mobile phone
3. Final salary pension schemes
4. Jobs for life / company loyalty
5. One-hour lunch breaks
6. Being able to leave work on time without feeling guilty
7. Getting away with a trip to the pub at lunchtime
8. 15 minute morning and afternoon breaks
9. Being rewarded with extra holiday for every year of service
10. Working 9 to 5
11. Getting a day in lieu for working overtime
12. Having your own work station rather than having to hot desk
13. Not being expected to work from home when sick – you could actually take a sick day
14. Speaking to colleagues over the phone or in person (without passive aggressive emails)
15. Face-to-face thank yous or pats on the back
16. A cafeteria
17. If you made a fool of yourself at the office party, no one had any way of recording it
18. Having the time to chat to the receptionist / HR staff / admin on your way through the office in the morning
19. Having an in-tray rather than an inbox
20. Being able to make politically incorrect jokes and get away with it
21. The office party was actually held in the office
22. Tippex
23. Your office was your second home – in a good way – you had pot plants and family photos decorating the desk
24. Shutting emails down at the end of the day
25. You were given personal gifts for birthdays and Christmas
26. You could borrow any stationery you wanted
27. You started a job with a clean slate as no one had stalked you on social media already
28. Having a paper address book full of contacts / Filofaxes
29. Dress-down Fridays (now every day can be casual)
30. You could use office stamps to send personal post
31. Smoking in the office / cigarette breaks
32. A remote meeting meant a three course meal and drinks, rather than a stop in a coffee shop
33. A simple builder's tea round
34. Wearing a suit or set uniform to work
35. Fresh coffee supplied at work rather than having a loyalty card at the local coffee chain
36. Typewriters
37. Photocopying
38. Getting to spend time with colleagues, rather than regular homeworking
39. Sneaking off to the toilet with colleagues to have a rant or moan rather than using online chat messages
40. Typing pools
41. Using fax machines
42. Using a clock in, clock out machine
43. Handing around staff memos
44. Handing out business cards
45. Sending your report to be typed
46. Printing out labels for envelopes
47. Office cubicles
48. Handing your stuff to the photocopy department
49. Computer screens were as big as your desk
50. Ties

While some just liked the days when they could use office stamps to send personal post or take any stationery they wanted from the supplies cupboard.

Smoking in the office, typing pools, staff memos and office parties which actually took place in the office also feature in the top 50 list.

Having an in-tray rather than an inbox, being allowed to make politically incorrect jokes and moaning to colleagues in the staff toilets rather than having to converse over messenger are also missed.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost half of those polled say they work longer hours now than they did some 10 or 20 years ago, while four in 10 are more likely to work from home without being paid.

One quarter of those polled say their boss has actually told them they are expected to work above their contract hours without being paid – with 63 per cent claiming management is altogether more demanding these days.

Six in 10 adults attribute the harder working conditions to the rise in technology, claiming there is never any escape now as clients, customers and colleagues can contact them 24/7.

Disappointingly, four in 10 office workers say their work-life balance is worse than it was in previous decades.


Dragon's Den investor Deborah Meaden said: “Workplaces in Britain have changed beyond recognition in the past few decades – and conditions for workers have generally improved enormously.

"But for most working animals overseas nothing ever changes. They face the same punishing conditions day-in, day-out, working in extreme temperatures and carrying backbreaking loads.

“On International Working Animal Day, please support SPANA’s work to ensure these hardworking horses, donkeys, elephants and camels receive the vital veterinary treatment they need and that their welfare is improved.”

Geoffrey Dennis added: “Change in the workplace is rapid and it’s unlikely to slow down any time soon.

“However, although some people in the UK may not regard changes at work positively, it’s important to spare a thought for working animals in developing countries around the world, which continue to work in harsh environments and suffer short, painful lives.

“By doing the jobs of trucks, tractors and tractors, working horses, donkeys, camels and elephants support the livelihoods of the world’s poorest families.

"SPANA works to improve their lives, ensuring they can receive the veterinary treatment they so desperately need when they are sick or injured.

"The charity also provides education and training for communities to teach them how to better look after their animals.

“Please show your support for these hardworking animals on International Working Animal Day and visit”

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