Unilever, Twitter, Square and many more companies have announced their staff may never return to working a five-day week in the office. But what do workers want?
A new survey* reveals that, after lockdown ends and the threat of the pandemic subsides, almost three quarters (73%) of UK knowledge workers want a hybrid arrangement, splitting their time between home and the office.
Of the 73%, the average employee wants to work from home for around two thirds (64%) of their working week, and spend around a third (36%) of their time working from the office.
Six in 10 (60%) of those who favour a hybrid arrangement want the flexibility to drop in to the office and co-work with their team when it suits them, while 29% would prefer set days each week when the whole company has to be in the office. The least popular option is credits or vouchers for a co-working space local to their homes: only preferred by 5% of respondents.
More women (65%) than men (55%) would prefer the fluidity of an office they could drop into anytime. More men (32%) than women (26%) would prefer to have set days when the whole company has to be in the office each week.
By contrast, only a fifth (20%) of total respondents want to work remotely 100% of the time, while just 7% want to work from the office full time. Those aged 45-54 are the most likely age group to prefer working from home 100% of the time (26%) compared to just 15% of 18-24 year olds.
Pros & cons of remote working
Of the respondents who generally prefer to work from home over working from the office, we asked them why. Just over four in 10 (41%) chose financial savings as the main reason behind it.
In one month of working from home, the average remote worker saves £120 per month in commute costs, £47 on coffee and refreshments, £62 on lunch and £70 on other costs. Parents save an additional £60 per month in reduced childcare costs.
Source: Claromentis, Feb 2021
However, 85% say they have experienced some downsides to remote working. Based on answers from all survey respondents, the top five are:
- Missing colleagues and the social side of work (35%)
- Feeling disconnected from my team (30%)
- Fewer opportunities for interesting conversations (25%)
- Experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation (24%)
- Too many pointless meetings and catch ups (24%)
That said, 37% “strongly agree” and 30% “somewhat agree” that the benefits of remote work outweigh any disadvantages.
What can employers do to improve remote work now?
Nine in 10 employees have spotted ways their employer could improve productivity for the remote workforce.
- The most popular option, selected by 38% of respondents, is to offer more flexibility around working hours, so that people can choose to work evenings and weekends rather than traditional hours if it suits them better. This is favoured by more women (43%) than men (34%).
- In second place, chosen by 37%, is cutting down on pointless, time-wasting meetings, an option preferred by more men (40%) than women (35%).
- And in third place is greater investment in tech hardware – including newer, faster computers – desired by a third (34%) of respondents. This technology is especially important to 25-34 year olds: 38% feel it is even more important for their productivity than cutting down on pointless meetings (34%).
Survey respondents were also asked to highlight urgent and non-urgent areas for improvement in their companies. Most pressing is better mental health provision, flagged as an urgent area for improvement by 39% of employees.
Many employees think that the following are urgently required to better support a remote workforce: improved collaboration and communication tools (33%), more opportunities for e-learning and training (33%), a stronger culture in the digital workplace (31%), more streamlined technology instead of fragmented apps (30%) and decent project management tools (28%).
Meanwhile, many businesses are not yet paperless: 30% of employees say automating paper processes is an urgent area for improvement in their companies. But this is a bigger problem in medium-sized businesses of 251-999 employees, where 36% identify this as an urgent area to improve.
Nigel Davies, CEO & founder of digital workplace Claromentis, says: “Our survey, undertaken during the third national COVID-19 lockdown, suggests a ‘best of both’ remote-office arrangement, with plenty of flexibility, is the future for knowledge work. And this arrangement would certainly dilute the downsides of remote work, which can include feeling socially disconnected, while teams enjoy the many benefits.
“It’s at this point in time – many months into this grand-scale, forced remote work experiment – that leaders can start to be less reactive and more proactive, and find meaningful ways to improve the home working experience based on what we’ve learnt so far. There are many opportunities for improvement, not least building a digital workplace that supports good communication, collaboration, project management, continuous learning and culture.”