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3.6 million workers feel they are being rushed back to the office

With more than 13.5 million workers having returned to their place of work for at least one day a week, more than four million say that they do not feel entirely safe doing so, according to new research by Direct Line Life Insurance.

The research also found that some 5.5 million workers would work from home permanently if given the option and 3.6 million feel as though they are being rushed back in by their employer.

Five million who have worked from home during the pandemic (26 per cent) say that they have not been looking forward to returning to work as they enjoy the work/life balance that they currently have, compared to 3.3 million (17 per cent) who say they are looking forward to returning to the office.

As companies ease back into their office space, the research shows that the average workplace that closed during the pandemic will be opening for just 2.2 days per week. Yet nearly two thirds (61 per cent) who are working flexibly think this arrangement is temporary. A quarter (24 per cent) of flexible workers believe their company will return to a five-day office week by the end of this year and a further 37 per cent believe it will return in 2022.

However, when broken down by seniority the data suggests a return to traditional, five-day working patterns sooner rather than later, with 40 per cent of senior managers who have been working flexibly expecting their business to be operating a five-day office week before the end of the year. This differs from middle managers, where 49 per cent do not expect to be back in the office for five days until 2022.

If given the choice, a quarter of employees who have worked from home (4.7 million) said they would prefer to do so full-time, while 11 per cent would return to the office full-time (2.1 million). Over a fifth (22 per cent) prefer two days in the office per week and 19 per cent prefer only one.

Preference on number of days in the office among home workers

Number of days

Senior managers

Middle managers

Junior Employees



24 per cent

23 per cent

22 per cent

25 per cent


23 per cent

21 per cent

20 per cent

19 per cent


27 per cent

24 per cent

21 per cent

22 per cent


7 per cent

13 per cent

16 per cent

13 per cent


12 per cent

5 per cent

8 per cent

6 per cent

Five or more

7 per cent

13 per cent

10 per cent

11 per cent

Don’t know

1 per cent

1 per cent

4 per cent

4 per cent

Source: Direct Line Life Insurance 2021

Workers considered the potential mental and physical health impact of getting out of the house more as the most important benefit of returning to the office. Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of workers considered this a benefit of returning to the office. The social aspects (69 per cent) and the potential positive economic impact of life returning to normal (69 per cent) are seen as other key benefits. However, over two thirds (67 per cent) admit they are concerned about the potential negative health impacts of people going out without any social distancing measures in place.

Vincent Guadagnino, Communications Manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, commented:“We have seen the pandemic cause a huge amount of uncertainty and disruption for everyone in many different ways, and office workers are now faced with a big change if returning to the office. With many now getting used to a new normal, employers will need to be mindful that everyone will have different views and feelings about the return to office life – whatever that looks like for you.”

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