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Workers do want to return to the office, but in a flexible way

Demand for office working remains strong among both employers and workers but on a flexible basis, suggests new research from Office Space in Town (OSiT). While two-times the number of people are now working from their office than in May 2020, and 84 per cent say they want to return to the workplace once vaccinated, 44 per cent of respondents reported they would want to work in a hybrid way over the next 6-12 months. 72 per cent plan to spend between one and four days per week in the office.

Three quarters, (75 per cent) of people reported that their company has maintained its offices throughout the pandemic and 16 per cent said they had returned to working from their normal office location. This is twice the number of people who were travelling to their normal workplace during the first lockdown.

Giles Fuchs, Chief Executive of Office Space in Town: “While businesses must be understanding of employees’ needs and health concerns, good company culture and effective development opportunities just can’t be recreated over Zoom. The pandemic has accelerated an existing cultural shift towards greater flexibility. Now, this survey shows the genuine appetite – and need – for hybrid working strategies with flexible office space at their core.”

The research also revealed the growing health and wellbeing impacts of continued home working, with 37 per cent of people reportedly suffering from anxiety or depression while working from home during the third lockdown.

Over half (51 per cent) felt their mental health had been negatively affected – a concerning increase of 18 per cent compared to the proportion of people who said they felt this way in OSiT’s May 2020 survey on the impacts of lockdown home working

Distractions were also the most cited disadvantage of home working (43 per cent), followed by difficulty collaborating with colleagues (41 per cent) and unplugging from work (39 per cent). Furthermore, the percentage of people citing lost collaboration with colleagues as a disadvantage had risen by an additional 10 per cent compared May 2020 figures, while those struggling to unplug when working from home had also increased, raising serious concerns of long-term employee burnout.

While the survey highlighted a number of benefits of home working, those citing shorter travel or no commute as an advantage of remote working had declined to 66 per cent – a drop of 6 per cent compared to the same period in 2020. Over half (55 per cent) cited the opportunity to save money as a key advantage, while 15 per cent reported that home working had made it easier to accommodate childcare commitments.

As the vaccine rollout continues, OSiT’s research indicates that the number of people concerned about catching or spreading the coronavirus had also fallen by 33 per cent ​and 41 per cent respectively in the year between May 2020 and May 2021.

The research has also identified a clear list of measures that can support people to feel safe and confident when returning to the office. Flexible hours to avoid peak commute times and hand sanitiser provided at desks were the most popular interventions (56 per cent), followed by sneeze screens (48 per cent) and temperature checks on arrival (40 per cent). The number of people who said that sneeze screens would make them feel safer in the office had also increased by over 59 per cent since the first lockdown.

Niki Fuchs, Managing Director of Office Space in Town: “It is clear from this research that protracted home working cannot be sustainable for people or businesses. In fact, these findings show its widespread consequences for worker wellbeing. 

“While people have benefited from increased time with family and flexibility around childcare, 84 per cent of us want to return to the office in some capacity. The office has a crucial role to play in prioritising collaboration, mental health and productivity as businesses recover from the pandemic. But, without an office footprint, organisations can only claim to offer “false flexibility” for their staff.”

FMJ and Grundon Waste Management have launched the 2021 waste and recycling management survey. It’s the fourth year for the annual appraisal of how FMs manage their waste and recycling activities and one which marks an unprecedented period of disruption to services due to the pandemic.

In order to understand how FMs have navigated their way through the last year and their plans for meeting stringent waste and recycling targets we’ve posed a series of questions – aided by the advice and experience of our editorial steering committee.

The results of the 2021 survey will be published in FMJ magazine and form the basis of a white paper co-written by FMJ and the experts at Grundon on how to approach waste and recycling strategies.

To take part in the survey click here.

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