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IWFM warns of worker welfare on 2022’s first day ‘not back in office’

For many employees, today is the first working day of 2022 but due to ongoing working from home restrictions the majority will not be attending their usual workplaces.

According to the latest research from the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM), more than half of office workers had expected to be back in the office today, and three quarters would have been back by the end of this week.

The poll of over a thousand workers, highlights that the appeal of exclusively working from home has worn thin for many, and that the majority (73 per cent) who took a break over Christmas were content or excited to return to the office this week. Just over a quarter (27 per cent) were not looking forward to their first day back. Men were most likely to be looking forward to the return. Overall, just 16 per cent of office workers expected to stick with majority home working after restrictions were lifted, in contrast to last year when eight in 10 information and communication professionals worked from home.

IWFM is warning employers that they owe a legal duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare of all their teams working at home. One in five (20 per cent) reported that their health had suffered in 2021 as a result of working from home. One in three (33 per cent) complained that their employers had failed to equip them to work effectively from home. One in six (15 per cent) of us saw our productivity decline in 2021.

The appeal of the office remains strong amongst those surveyed, with office workers’ top three desires after the Christmas break seeing colleagues (24 per cent), getting back to a routine (22 per cent), and escaping family (10 per cent). Working from home does offer benefits, with 28 per cent saying they hate the early start of office working and 15 per cent dreading the commuting experience.

The majority of office workers expect to be back in the office full time (60 per cent) post pandemic, with a further quarter (23 per cent) expecting to be in at least three days a week. The return to the office brings risks for employers, with three in 10 (31 per cent) considering leaving their employer if they fail to invest in making the workplace better suited to employee needs. Overall half (51 per cent) reported their employers had made no changes to their office over the last year, with only a minority (25 per cent) having seen improvements in their office environment.

Linda Hausmanis, IWFM CEO commented: “The first working day of 2022 is a missed opportunity for millions of office workers and for UK business – three quarters of us will be excluded from our first choice of workplace this week. Of course it is right that public safety comes first, but the costs to the economy and people’s health from poorly planned work spaces must not be forgotten.

“Hybrid working should offer the best of two worlds but for far too many of us it offers the worst of both. Younger home workers are especially at risk from isolation and a lack of safe working spaces. If hybrid is the future as most predict, employers must step up, review their workplace strategies in relation to the learnings of the last two years or risk losing their workforce to resignations and illness.”

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