Thursday, July 16, 2020

Midlands workers reluctant to work from home, new polling shows

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 14% of Midlands office workers plan primarily to work from home in the future, while only 13% hope that working from home replaces the office.

This compares to one in five (20%) UK adults who plan primarily to work from home in the future, while just 16% of UK adults hope the office is replaced by working from home.

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 workers in the Midlands, with many instead opting for ‘mixed working’, balancing time between the office and home.

The survey, which polled 2,000 adults nationwide, found that 40% do not plan to work from home at all, compared to 38% nationally. Meanwhile, just 12% plan to work from home for less than half of the working week, or on an ad hoc basis, compared to more than a quarter (27%) nationally.

Workers are clearly missing office life with 27% missing socialising with colleagues, compared to 34% nationally, 33% missing getting out of the house or being in the centre of town, compared to 35% nationally and 20% missing having a physical distinction between work and leisure, compared to 25% nationally.

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.”

Danny Parmar, Chair of the BCO Midlands and East Anglia Committee, said: “The office is not dead. The results of this poll do not surprise me – human beings are social animals and the office is a great place, not only to socialise but also to share and develop great ideas to progress our businesses.

“Yes, there will be more remote working as we’ve found that technology allows us to work efficiently from home, but it will simply add to the choices we now have, rather than replacing the office entirely.”

Most Brits say no to Government tracking app

The polling also found that Brits were cautious about adopting many of the proposed measures for returning to work.

Only 20% plan to download a Government-backed app to help track the spread of COVID-19, perhaps reflecting concerns about personal information and privacy, compared to 23% nationally. Just 17% plan to walk, run or cycle to work, while 21% plan to nationally, which may be a reflection on the distances many people travel to work. Furthermore, a mere 15% intend to check their temperature before work, while 19% nationally intend to do so.

54% will regularly and thoroughly wash their hands, which corresponds to polling across the UK. 22% will avoid busy lifts, suggesting that employers may be right to impose limits on the number of lift occupants, compared to nearly a third (29%) nationally.

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.”

The polling was conducted by Toluna, an independent market research agency, and took place between May 12-15th, 2020.

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