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Number of employees reluctant to return to the office doubles

New research has revealed that the number of employees who do not want to return to the office has nearly doubled since the start of the lockdown – rising to 34 per cent, from 19 per cent in April.

The YouGov poll, which surveyed 2,000 office workers across the country in April and again in late June, revealed that as employees settle into a home-working routine, attitudes towards a return to the office have hardened – with over half (51 per cent) believing this period has made the concept of an office unnecessary.

Maintaining a work/life balance is a key driver for wanting to stay at home – with 42 per cent concerned about having less free time for personal activities and 75 per cent enjoying the time saved on commuting.

Financial concerns are also a factor. Forty-three per cent are concerned about reverting to a costly commute, rising to 58 per cent of 18-24 year olds. Indeed, concerns over the financial impact of a commute are more prevalent than worries about being able to maintain social distancing on public transport (31 per cent).

Concerns over health and safety in the office space are also prevalent. Even with government guidelines in place, 41 per cent feel social distancing will be unrealistic to maintain in practice in an office environment, and 63 per cent do not feel their employer is doing enough to protect their health and safety in formulating return to the office plans.

This has led to three quarters (73 per cent) wanting their employer to offer more flexible working options in the future – with nearly a fifth (17 per cent) feeling so strongly that not being offered such options would lead them to search for a new job.

Chris Moriarty, Director of Insight at the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management commented: “Humans are creatures of habit – and after months of lockdown, it’s unsurprising that many employees have become accustomed to a home-working routine. However, the role of the traditional office space in promoting connectivity, collaboration and cohesion contributing to the productivity and culture of an organisation cannot be understated.

“The makeup of workplaces will change as we move beyond the crisis. Office based versus remote working must not be seen as a binary choice. Employers must make efforts to provide staff with compelling support and incentives to return to a corporate space, whilst also ensuring policies provide the choice and flexibility to maintain employee engagement and to retain talent.” 

Of those surveyed, 59 per cent reported to having received regular communication on steps to return to the office, and a further 45 per cent have been encouraged to provide input and feedback into return plans.

Moriarty added: “It’s encouraging to see that employers are actively engaging with their workforce in formulating return plans. Workplace and facilities managers have a key role to play in turning this feedback into practical policies that enable a change in traditional working environments. They act as the glue in organisations, marrying the space, culture and technology aspects of work into a workplace strategy that adds value and enables decisions that benefit employees and organisations alike.”

The research was conducted by the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management as part of its ‘Return to the Workplace’ campaign.

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