More than half of UK workers have rejected the idea of working in an office again, research has found.
The statistic emerged from a UK-wide national survey commissioned by global asynchronous video interview platform Willo to gauge how working habits in the UK have changed since the first lockdown was introduced to combat the spread of Covid-19 on March 23, 2020.
Some 56% of people in the UK said the lockdown had made them unlikely to consider working from an office, with older workers least likely to do so – where 77% said they wouldn’t consider it.
Regionally, Wales has the highest number of workers unlikely to consider working from an office again (63%), while six in 10 people in the South East of England also said they were unlikely to.
Meanwhile, around a third of workers (32%) also said they’d quit their job if employers wouldn’t allow them to work from home. People under 45 were even more likely to do so (16–24-year-olds 44%; 25–34-year-olds 52%; 35-44 year-olds 44%). Just 14% of over 55s said they’d leave. Around 40% of respondents even said they’d retrain to do a job that enables them to work remotely.
Workers in Greater London are most likely to quit if unable to work from home, with around half (48%) saying they’d leave their job if bosses asked them to return to the office full time. Workers in the North East of England were least likely to quit, with more than a fifth (22%) saying they’d leave if refused the right to work from home.
Working from home became essential for the majority of the nation during Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, when the UK Government advised people to work from home even once restrictions eased. Only ‘key workers’ such as medical staff, emergency services, and shop workers were excepted.
Flexibility and choice
Employers have increasingly called on staff to return to offices, with a separate survey conducted by Slack published earlier this year revealing 50% of leaders want workforces back on site.
Around half of respondents to the Willo study, conducted by Opinion Matters, said they would now consider applying for a job that enables them to work from home (47%), with the same number going a step further and considering roles that enable them to work from anywhere in the world (47%).
Around four in 10 respondents also said they will never spend as much time commuting as they did before the pandemic (39%), with those under 44 again less likely to do so.
Euan Cameron, founder of Willo, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic drove the biggest change to working habits since the industrial revolution. It changed what we thought was possible when it comes to work, and for the better.
“Sectors that were previously tied to offices have been liberated, with staff enjoying increased flexibility and choice, and employers reaping the benefits of more appropriate premises and access to talent once off limits due to geography or time zone. It’s a win-win.
“Three years is enough time to show a true shift in worker and employer behaviour. It’s no secret that lockdowns were the final hurdle on remote working going mainstream, but what this survey shows is that working from home is now considered a right, not a perk or privilege. If workers aren’t afforded it, they’ll vote with their feet and I think we ‘ll see more of that as years progress.
“It goes beyond work from home too – to work from anywhere. More than half of Willo’s workforce is based outside of the UK, and it brings huge benefits in terms of diversity, talent, and productivity. It provides access to a global talent pool rather than just regional."