A survey commissioned by the British Council for Offices (BCO) shows that, once government measures allow, Britons are likely to shift to a ‘mixed’ working style, with time in the office balanced with time at home.
The survey of more than 2,000 office workers nationwide, conducted by independent market research agency Toluna, took place between 3-7 September.
Although the poll took place before the latest government measures on Covid-19, it discovers a general appetite to get back to the office.
Asked about how they planned to work for the next six months, almost half of the respondents (46 per cent) said they intend to split their work between home and the office, while 30 per cent were set on a total five-day-a-week return to the office. Office ‘sceptics’ appear to have been silenced – only 15 per cent of respondents planned to work from home exclusively.
These plans may be put on hold for now, given new government guidance, but the survey suggests a new approach to how we intend to work in the medium to long term.
The BCO says the nation’s “new hybrid habits span hierarchies”. At the top end, 62 per cent of C-suite respondents planned to divide their time between the home and the office, whereas 58 per cent of trainees wished to do the same.
The poll indicates that potentially uninspired creatives were most keen to get back to the office. Only 7 per cent of marketers were planning to work from home full-time over the coming two quarters – making them the least keen profession to stay home; 62 per cent of this group said they enjoy the in-office creative exchanges.
The survey also finds that most office workers did return to the office in August, with 64 per cent having spent some time in the office since 1 August, with almost a quarter (24 per cent) working a full week at their desk.
But the survey also highlights that homeworking poses problems for young workers.
Respondents also highlighted the importance of the office to career development, with 71 per cent stating that the office is important for developing networks and learning. Meanwhile, 65 per cent said their career has been helped by relationships forged in the office and 71 per cent agreed that the office is important for forming connections with colleagues.
As a new generation of graduates enters the working world, this suggests that remote working might cause difficulties for young employees, who are yet to form networks and arguably gain most from seeing how their colleagues work.
Richard Kauntze, CEO of the BCC, said: “Our way of working is changing, and a new, mixed working approach is becoming popular. This does not mean the end of the office. The office is valuable for career development, which relies on forming networks and the informal lessons that come from watching senior colleagues operate. This is particularly true for young people, who would suffer if working from home ever became totally predominant.
“The coming months and years are an opportunity to reimagine the office and its purpose. It is time for Britain to return to the office, but doing so doesn’t mean a return to how we used to work. Let’s embrace the change.”
Matt Flood, head of occupier markets at Landsec, added: “The pandemic has triggered a huge acceleration in the trends which were already under way such as a greater emphasis on flexibility, wellbeing and sustainability. The future of work will be around choice where the office forms part of a wider ecosystem of physical and digital spaces.
“This research, which supports our own customer insight, shows that the role of the office will evolve to be focused on driving collaboration, learning and innovation and so the spaces and products we design need to support these tasks whilst offering the opportunity for businesses to express their brand and culture.”