Brits sick of working from home as vast majority want partial return to office

·3 min read
Millenium Bridge, Southbank, Southwark
The UK looks set for a more hybrid working style when people return to offices. Photo: Arcaid/Universal Images Group via Getty

UK workers are clamouring for a partial return to offices, as 85% reported they want a mix between working from home and on site post-COVID.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data released on Monday morning measuring attitudes to home working found that both businesses and individuals preferred a "hybrid" working approach for the future.

However, there is some mismatch in sentiment between businesses and workers. The survey found nearly two-fifths (38%) of businesses expected 75% or more of their workforce to be at their normal place of work, while a large proportion (36%) of those currently homeworking thought they would spend the majority or all their time homeworking in the future.

Workers who can work from home have been instructed to do so for the majority of the last 15 months to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. Amid a rapid move to online meetings and systems many companies have taken this as an opportunity to reduce office overheads and make a more permanent shift.

This isn't the case across the board, though. Responses to the ONS survey differed by industry, with only 15% of the Information and Communication industry expecting 75% or more of their workforce at their normal place of work while this was almost half (49%) for the Accomodation and Food Service Activity industry.

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The difference is likely linked to an industries ability to homework currently and in the future, the ONS said.

Work-life balance was seen to be the greatest positive of homeworking, while challenges of collaboration were the greatest negative.

"Everyone defines hybrid working differently, so it’s going to be an enormous challenge for businesses to fit the jigsaw pieces together," says Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"If you have 30 people, enough space for 20, and they need to come together in 10 different combinations, it’s going to require some complex contortions. Add in the fact that they’ve been able to work whenever and however they wanted for the past year and it’s going to be like herding cats through the kind of intricate obstacle course a collie would struggle with."

"We all have a vested interest in making hybrid working effective, so the next few months will require us all to do what we can to make it work.”

Since lockdown, adverts mentioning homeworking have risen faster than total adverts. Chart: ONS/Adzuna
Since lockdown, adverts mentioning homeworking have risen faster than total adverts. Chart: ONS/Adzuna

The research also found that recruitment is changing, alongside the shift to working from home. Online job adverts including terms related to "homeworking" have increased at a faster rate than total adverts, with homeworking adverts in May 2021 three times above their February 2020 average.

And homeworking appears to be here to stay. As restrictions then began to ease in spring 2021, homeworking vacancies remained high across many categories.

In the Charity and Voluntary category, the proportion of homeworking adverts fell slightly between March and May 2021 but were still 12.3 percentage points above their February 2020 average level.

In the IT, Computing and Software category, remote working vacancies only fell 0.1 percentage points.

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