Research by the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) warns that half (50 per cent) of UK workers are being pressured to return to unfit office spaces by their bosses.
Of those who feel pressured to return, almost half (49 per cent) feel they are now more productive working from home than in the office. This was significantly higher amongst younger workers, with 50 per cent of 18-34 year olds compared with 40 per cent of those aged 55 and over.
The survey of 2,000 employees reveals that productivity may be being held back by a lack of spaces in offices to support new ways of working.
Of those surveyed 31 per cent of workers admit to struggling to perform basic tasks in the office compared with working from home and 48 per cent believe a lack of breakout spaces and meeting rooms is hindering collaborative working and an additional 48 per cent report that IT and technology systems need updating.
The research found that 39 per cent of employees are also struggling to video call clients/colleagues working from home while in the office. Moreover, almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of those who feel pressured to return claim little has changed in their place of work since the first lockdown, with 63 per cent believing their employers need to do more to adapt both their working cultures and facilities to enable hybrid working. Over half (55 per cent) are now calling for their spaces to be modernised. This was significantly higher among those aged 18 to 34 (56 per cent agreed) than over-55s (37 per cent) agreed.
Linda Hausmanis, CEO of the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management, said: “Work is an activity, not a destination; this is the key takeaway from the mass homeworking experiment we all had to live through over the last 16 months. As we slowly move out of lockdown, the challenge for employers is to ensure their offices and teams are ready for the transition away from full-time homeworking. The findings of this research warn that while a high number of businesses are well prepared to meet this new challenge, many are risking being unable to keep hold of their top talent if they fail to adapt their space, infrastructure and culture to new ways of working.”
The research finds that most of those keen to work from offices four days a week or more have already returned, starting to give organisations, and surrounding eateries and businesses, an indication of footfall post-pandemic. Of those surveyed, 85 per cent of those who intend to spend most of their time working in the office returned in June or earlier. For businesses keen to hold on to talent, the survey warns that 27 per cent of workers want to spend less time in the office than their employers expect.
Hausmanis added: “Traditional views of the workplace have changed in the past year, and now is the time for organisations to acknowledge their responsibility and invest in a workplace strategy that supports productive work, whatever the destination. This goes beyond surface-level improvements or binary decisions between the office and home; businesses must review their entire workplace experience and culture in partnership with their teams as a matter of urgency to enable staff to do their best work wherever they may be.” The survey also revealed employees aged 55-plus have been going into the office less often than 18-34-year-olds (56 per cent and 65 per cent). Of those that have been going in, just over half (59 per cent) of the 55-plus age group said they enjoyed it.
This compares with three-quarters (75 per cent) of those aged 18 to 34, who are enjoying it more than their older colleagues. The research also found that while the majority of (41 per cent) feel their employers are taking Covid precautions seriously, a significant number (37 per cent) are being put off by their colleagues failing to adhere to government guidelines, including social distancing and the wearing of face masks.
The research was conducted by the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management as part of its ongoing ‘Returning to the workplace’ campaign.
For more information on the campaign, visit: https://www.iwfm.org.uk/coronavirus-resources/covid-19-guidance-returning-to-work.html