Most South West and Welsh workers reluctant to work mainly from home, new polling shows

Andy Heath. chairman of the British Council for Offices (BCO) South West, and Wales

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 17% of those in the South West and Wales 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 to primarily work from home in the future, with just 16% 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 South West and Wales, with many instead opting for ‘mixed working’, balancing time between the office and home.

The survey, which polled 2,000 adults nationwide, found that just under half of those in the South West and Wales (43%) do not plan to work from home at all, compared to 38% nationally. Meanwhile, more than a quarter (27%) plan to work from home for less than half of the working week, or on an ad hoc basis, the same number of people as seen nationally.

Workers are clearly missing office life:

  • 39% miss socialising with colleagues, compared to 34% nationally
  • 29% miss getting out of the house or being in the centre of town, compared to 35% nationally
  • 22% miss 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.”

Andy Heath, Regional Chairman of the British Council for Offices (BCO) South West, and Wales, said:

“It is clear to see that the coronavirus has had a massive impact on the way people look at the workplace. Businesses across the South West and Wales will be further prompted to make adaptations to work patterns or workplace culture in light of revealing polls like this.

“What is also clear from these statistics is that in our region and nationally, there is still a lot of uncertainty around how Coronavirus will affect workers returning to offices. Employers will therefore have to listen closely to the needs of its staff in order to ensure a smooth transition out of lockdown.”

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 22% of workers in the South West and Wales 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 21% plan to walk, run or cycle to work, the same percentage as nationally, which may be a reflection on the distances many people travel to work. Furthermore, a mere 17% intend to check their temperature before work, while 19% nationally intend to do so.

52% will regularly and thoroughly wash their hands, compared to 54% 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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