May 21, 2020
Rumours of the demise of the office are much exaggerated, according to new independent polling commissioned by the British Council for Offices (BCO), the representative body for the UK’s office sector. Just one in five (20 percent) UK adults plans primarily to work from home in the future, while only 16 percent hope that working from home replaces the office. Last week, Twitter, the social media company, announced that staff could ‘forever work from home’ if they wanted to. However, that offer would only be partially taken up by British workers, with many instead opting for ‘mixed working’, balancing time between the office and home.
The survey, which polled 2,000 adults nationwide, found that 38 percent do not plan to work from home at all. Meanwhile, more than a quarter (27 percent) plan to work from home for less than half of the working week, or on an ad hoc basis.
Workers are clearly missing office life. More than a third (34 percent) miss socialising with colleagues, while 35 percent miss getting out of the house or being in the centre of town. Additionally, a quarter (25 percent) miss having a physical distinction between work and leisure.
Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the British Council for Offices, said: “Lockdown has prompted a great deal of speculation about the end of the office. However, this polling shows that just because people can do something, it doesn’t mean they will. The office remains popular because we are social beings, who work best together. Certainly, the way we work will change. Mixed working will probably become more popular and some of the stigma around working from home will fade away, with people working from home more than they used to. However, the office will remain our most popular place of work. Rumours of its demise are much exaggerated.”
Despina Katsikakis, Head of Occupier Business Performance at Cushman and Wakefield, said: “Lockdown has shown that working from home can work, and at scale. However, we should not forget the many benefits that an office can possess. When working together in an office, people feel more connected to corporate culture and learn from each other, which is likely to positively impact creativity and innovation. The way we work will change as a result of the lockdown and the role of the office will change accordingly, but that is a far cry from this being the end of the office.”
And it’s a no for a tracking app
The polling also claims that Brits were cautious about adopting many of the proposed measures for returning to work. Only 23 percent plan to download a Government-backed app to help track the spread of COVID-19, perhaps reflecting concerns about personal information and privacy. Just 21 percent plan to walk, run or cycle to work, which may be a reflection on the distances many people travel to work. Furthermore, a mere 19 percent intend to check their temperature before work.
Most of those surveyed (54 percent) will regularly and thoroughly wash their hands. Nearly a third (29 percent) will avoid busy lifts, suggesting that employers may be right to impose limits on the number of lift occupants. The findings suggest that employers will have to make it as easy as possible for workers to return to the office in a safe and, where possible, socially distanced way.
Kauntze said: “It can be easy to expect people to make significant changes to the way they live and work, but these results provide a dose of reality. Most people have habits and are busy, so it is essential that workplaces are designed to make hygiene and social distancing as convenient as possible. This can mean changing layouts to provide more space, providing handwashing and sanitizer points, and cleverly implementing screens and other design fixes.”