Almost half of UK office workers fear return to offices
Research shows 83% of UK office workers agree that flexible working is here to stay, but fears persist of catching Covid-19 from colleagues if they return to the office
Today (12 April) is a red letter day for the UK workplace as lockdown restrictions ease and businesses reopen, but a survey from smart locker provider Velocity Smart Technology warns that despite general optimism for the next step in recovery, employees have big concerns about returning to the office and what measures will be in place to limit the spread of Covid-19.
The report, Supporting your remote workforce in 2021 and beyond, was conducted in December 2020 using online methodology. All the interviews were completed with people who had to use a computer to fulfil the requirements of their employment and respondents were sourced from professional, fully screened and profiled online panels. A total of 3,000 interviews were completed – 1,000 in the UK and 2,000 in the US – with people who worked in organisations employing more than 200.
“Before the turn of the decade, remote working was something that so-called ‘cool’ or young businesses provided as a perk to attract rising talent,” said Anthony Lamoureux, CEO at Velocity Smart Technology. “But one global pandemic later and things are very different. Practically overnight, well-established businesses no longer had the luxury of toying with the idea of remote working as something they ‘could’ offer in a far-off future – they either had to adapt to a remote workforce or close shop altogether.
“Business leaders and IT directors now need to understand exactly what the pandemic has taught us about remote working. In a nutshell, remote working is here to stay and for a company to thrive in this new paradigm, it needs to evolve the support provided to remote employees and ensure they are equipped to give their all.”
The study found that as many as two-fifths of UK office workers have said catching Covid-19 as a direct result of being back in contact with colleagues is what worries them the most about returning to offices. Also, more than one-third (37%) of workers said they were most fearful of contracting Covid-19 through contamination of shared office devices and equipment such as computers and keyboards.
As a result, almost two-thirds of UK office workers (65%) would advocate social distancing measures of two metres between desks and more than half (52%) would welcome mandatory mask-wearing in office spaces.
With employees calling for such safety measures to be deployed in the office, Velocity Smart Technology said it was not surprising that 83% of UK office workers agreed that flexible working is here to stay, suggesting that there really is little doubt that the office has changed for ever.
Nearly half of US workers (44%) said productivity has improved since the outbreak of Covid-19, but this drops to 29% of UK workers, with almost a quarter (24%) saying productivity has decreased since the outbreak.
The study also warned that although workers have got used to working from home, issues still persist. Half of the UK workers cited a lack of personal motivation while working from home, while 70% of remote-working staff experienced problems with their IT, over half (54%) having to wait up to three hours extra to resolve issues.
A quarter of remote workers in the UK (25%) and almost a quarter of those in the US (22%) said poorly performing or broken IT equipment had caused a loss of productivity. Nearly three-fifth of US respondents had a technology problem that necessitated replacement hardware during the pandemic, but 46% of them had to wait at least three hours to resolve an IT issue.
Read more about the new world of work
- Despite the bleak times caused by Covid-19, study finds productivity shrinks but office and remote workers optimistic about new normal, with a silver lining in the form of accelerating digital transformation and technology investment for remote workers.
- Study finds vast majority of workers feel employers are not fully prepared to support the longer-term move to a hybrid workforce, prompting a need for organisations to plan their ‘future workplace’ better.
- Hybrid working a reality but business leaders not yet giving up on the office, with research finding C-suite executives and business leaders will primarily split their workforces between on-site and remote work, and markedly small numbers looking to adopt exclusive on-site or remote working.