A new survey from Office Space in Town (OSiT) has identified the hidden impact of lockdown remote working on wellbeing and health, with findings revealing that the majority of workers favour a full return to the office. The findings indicate that health concerns remain a major hurdle to a return to the office in the immediate term, with a number of measures identified to support workers to feel safe returning to work.
The survey reveals that 95 per cent of workers favour a return to the office following the development of a vaccine. With 70 per cent of respondents working from home, 64 per cent reported that their companies did not offer practical guidance to ensure that employees’ homes are compliant with typical health and safety rules, prompting longer-term health concerns. A further 29 per cent reported a lack of suitable equipment as a disadvantage to home working, corresponding with research from the British Council for Offices which has reported a significant increase in musculoskeletal complaints, including just under 60 per cent of respondents reporting neck pain, as well back pain (55 per cent) and shoulder complaints (56 per cent).
The OSiT survey findings showed the impacts of lockdown remote working on wellbeing. Nearly a third (29 per cent) of respondents felt that loneliness was the biggest downside to working from home, whilst a further 25 per cent reported feelings of anxiety. A large portion of respondents also cited a lack of ability to ‘unplug’ from work (37 per cent) as a major disadvantage.
Despite less than eight per cent of respondents currently working from their normal office, the survey found that only five per cent of workers want to be working remotely on a full-time basis once a vaccine is developed. Of the 95 per centthat do want to return to the office, the majority expressed a preference for greater flexibility in working hours (59 per cent).
The findings also unveiled a ‘Worker Wishlist’ of steps for returning to work safely and confidently. With two-thirds of respondents expressing concern over contamination, over 60 per cent agreed that extra cleaning measures would make them feel more comfortable. Other measures include social distancing markers (52 per cent), the availability of face masks and gloves (52 per cent), hand sanitiser available at all desks (50 per cent), and sneeze screens (36 per cent).
The survey additionally identified a number of benefits of home working. Some 72 per cent of respondents agreed that avoiding their commute was the main benefit of working from home and 54 per cent agreed that they can spend more time with their family. These results correspond with data from OSiT’s 2019 Commuter Survey, in which 55 per cent of workers feel that their commute impacted their time with family.
However, missing out on collaboration with colleagues (32 per cent) and the increase in distractions (42 per cent) were cited as key disadvantages. Whilst workers benefitted from additional time spent with family, a majority of 52% felt that working from home did not improve their work-life balance, whilst 34% cited a lack of dedicated workspace as a key drawback to home working.
Niki Fuchs, Managing Director of OSiT said: “The survey results show that, given the chance, people would significantly prefer to be in the office. It seems that working from home is neither a sustainable option for the majority of people nor for their employers. We thrive on the water cooler moments, in-person collaboration and development opportunities cultivated in the physical office, where a professionalised environment fosters productivity and community.
“The potential cost of permanent remote working to workers’ wellbeing and health is also concerning, with these results indicating issues from a lack of dedicated space and suitable working equipment to the mental health impact of blurred work-life boundaries, which are not simply going to disappear in the longer term.
“As we all look ahead to getting back to the office safely, employers and office providers should remember they have a responsibility to ensure people feel comfortable to return to work. The steps unveiled in this survey offer a simple, realisable roadmap for this – provide a clean environment and offer flexible hours to encourage people back to the office and back to normality.”