Most don’t want to go back to the office – but bosses are wary

More than three in five employees who can work from home would be happy if their office remained closed indefinitely after lockdown measures are lifted, even if there were a sustained drop in Covid-19 cases.

One in five even claimed to be “extremely happy” at the prospect of working permanently from home according to a new YouGov study commissioned by the law firm, Winckworth Sherwood.

And UK businesses appear to be listening, with the research revealing that nearly a third  of HR decision makers saying they intend to close or at least reduce their office space capacity, arguably signalling the biggest shift in working life since the Second World War.

The survey took place after 13 weeks of Lockdown and it follows an earlier one in January designed to compare the views of HR decision makers and employees.

An overwhelming 72 per cent of bosses believed that offering flexible working was important for recruitment and retention, even though nearly two in five feared it would affect an employee’s ability to do their job. Since then that fear has increased to almost  and was cited as the biggest barrier to employees working flexible.

In stark contrast, the research carried out in June showed that less than one in five  employees believe that flexible working would impact on their ability to carry out their job effectively and over a third  felt there was no barriers to them working flexibly.

it appears that our time in Lockdown has had a lasting impact upon the way we will approach working life and the changing expectations of employees

Although the research showed that both employers and employees intend to have more flexible working in the long-term, the research also highlighted the concerns which employees have regarding the possibility of working from home all or most of the time.

Worryingly, a quarter believe it will have a negative impact on their well-being. To help combat this, 26 per cent of employees who can work from home believe that employers could implement well-being initiatives such as team video calls involving activities, yoga or exercise classes, the introduction of mental health first aiders, and  free counselling sessions.

Employment Team partner Louise Lawrence (pictured) said: “Despite much talk of offices re-opening and returning to ‘normal’, it appears that our time in Lockdown has had a lasting impact upon the way we will approach working life and the changing expectations of employees that companies must now take into consideration.

“For businesses to recruit and retain key talent and remain competitive, they need to listen to their employees and embrace flexible working.  As well as looking at home working, 50 per cent of employees who are able to work from home said that they wanted their employer to be flexible around working hours and 25 per cent said that their employer should measure their output rather than time spent.

“Whatever flexible working arrangements are offered in the longer term, employers need to consider their responsibilities towards employees when they implement their flexible working practices such as ensuring a safe work set up at home and effective engagement, and looking after their employees’ well-being.

“Flexible working and mental health at work policies, which are embedded in an open culture of good communication are essential.”