What does the future hold for office working?

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The trend towards working from home – or so-called “flexible” working – has been growing steadily in recent years. The coronavirus pandemic has given that trend a massive boost – which the Times newspaper recently called “unprecedented”.

The trend accelerated

A recent study by the University of Cardiff found the incidence of homeworking has rocketed since the start of the first lockdown in March. It rose from around 6% of the working population before the pandemic to 43% in April this year.

Productivity

The academic study also found that productivity among those individuals working from home remained more or less the same – or even improved – during lockdown.

A detailed investigation by KKS Savills in July went still further when it revealed that two-thirds (67%) of all employers reported an increase in productivity – with some claiming that productivity among their workforce had increased by as much as 20%.

Flexibility

The report by KKS Savills also found that employees are likely to be their most productive when they have the freedom to decide when and where they work. Flexibility and perhaps a hybrid manner of working from home some days and in an office on others is likely to be the key.

Indeed, a study conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in 2018 found that there was already a strong demand for flexible working. Little wonder, therefore, that 87% of individuals now want to work flexibly, combining both office and remote working.

Looking forward

Given employees’ preferences and the potential benefits of staff recruitment and retention – not to mention the possibility of increased productivity – the flexible working enjoyed by millions is most unlikely to be significantly rolled back once the pandemic passes. Still more opportunities are likely to be created for a combination of office and remote working.

Workthere Research, in a report in August, found that some 29% of all workers had some form of flexible working before the pandemic struck. An additional 47% are now saying they expect to be offered flexible working practices.

This accords with the 87% of employees who have expressed a wish to work remotely for two or three days a week once the pandemic is over, according to a story in the Financial Times recently.

For those looking forward to working from home regularly, their number has doubled pre- and post-Covid – growing from 18% to a current 36%, reported the BBC on the 30th of August.

Hybrid working

Although employees may have expressed a desire for more opportunities to work from home – and employers might be only too glad to cut back on the provision of expensive office space – the days of office life are by no means over.

In the surveys conducted by KKS Savills, for example, 89% of respondents emphasised the importance of an office to work from – if only to combat the potential loneliness and isolation of forever working from home.

The sentiment was echoed in the report by Workthere Research, which found that younger workers, in particular, are most likely to miss the social aspects of office interaction. Among 25 to 34-year-olds, for instance, 80% said they would miss some aspect of office life. When viewed across the UK as a whole, those working in London are most likely to miss social interaction in the office.