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Have working patterns changed forever?

Published: Monday 12th October 2020

A survey by British Council for Offices (BCO) has asked if working patterns have changed forever because of the pandemic. The survey of 2,000 office workers was conducted in September. Members of the BCO include office workers, architects, engineers and estate agents. The survey revealed many office workers and employers do not intend to return to normal office hours after the pandemic.

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Employees of all levels revealed they intend or hope to divide their time between home and the office in the future. This was reflected by 62% of senior executives and 58% of entry-level workers wanting this new approach to work. Survey results showed that many believe working patterns have changed forever. Nearly half of all workers (46%) plan to divide their time between working at home and the office over the next six months. Only 30% said they were considering working for five days in an office. A further 15% intend on working from home full time.

No turning back?

BCO chief executive Richard Kauntze believes people no longer want to work full-time in offices.  He said, “We are never going to go back how things were before. The idea that people will return to the five-day week in the office has gone. I think a much more blended approach is likely, two or three days in the office and two-three at home.”

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The Institute of Directors (IOD), an organisation made up of over 25,000 business leaders in the UK, reinforced this view. The IOD conducted a recent survey of almost 1,000 directors. The survey found almost three-quarters predicted home working would continue after the pandemic. Furthermore, over half of the directors were planning on reducing workplace hours.

Roger Barker, director of policy at the IOD, believes the government should help small firms make the transition to remote working through R&D tax relief. He also added that companies must be aware that remote working is not for everyone. He said, “Managing teams remotely can prove far from straightforward, and directors must make sure they are going out of their way to support employees’ mental wellbeing.”

We still need offices

However, despite such findings, there is still a strong case for keeping offices. Three-quarters of workers surveyed by BCO believe the office was important for training and networking. A similar figure reported benefitting professionally from the relationships they have made in the office. Training and guidance for junior employees is repeatedly seen as one of the biggest reasons for keeping offices. Regarding junior members of staff, BCO chief executive Kauntze, said, “The anchor of having an office, a place where they can socialise, safely of course, and where they can talk to people not via a screen, is absolutely crucial for their mental wellbeing and their development.”

Outside image of busy office block, highlighting the question, have working patterns changed forever

The IOD agrees with this view, believing offices will remain important places for interaction and team working, particularly for new team members. Barker of the IOD, said, “For many companies, bringing teams together in person proves more productive and enjoyable. Shared workspace often provides employees the opportunity for informal development and networking that is so crucial, particularly early on in a career,” Barker said.

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