Are offices becoming redundant? 37% WFH in 2020

Rebecca Tomes
(IFA Magazine)
June 15, 2021

 

A new study conducted by ONS has revealed that 37% of people worked from home in 2020. Despite this, 85% of home workers would prefer working in the office a few days a week. 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published a report, ‘Business and individual attitudes towards the future of homeworking, UK: April to May 2021‘, exploring attitudes to homeworking.

The study found that an average of 37% of people worked from home in 2020, up from 27% in 2019.

However, 85% of people who worked from home said they wanted to use a ‘hybrid’ approach in future; giving them the option to work in the office and at home. 38% of businesses indeed expect 75% or more of their workforce to go into work in future, yet 36% of workers expect to mainly homework.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown comments, “The death of the office has been greatly exaggerated: half of people were back in the workplace by the third week in May. However, not everyone is clamoring for a return to the rat race, and 85% of people would prefer some kind of hybrid approach – balancing working at home with a few days in the office. The challenge now is for employers to work out what that actually means in practice – without giving up and dragging everyone back to work.

“For some people, homeworking has been a godsend, allowing them to balance the demands of work and home life. They’re enjoying being able to concentrate without distractions, and say that ditching the commute has improved their overall wellbeing. For those who are settled into their career, who live somewhere with enough space to work comfortably, and are at a time in life where they are caring for children or older family members, it has been lifechanging.

“For women, who have tended to bear the burden of care, it has been particularly important. And for men, who may have previously not had the opportunity to take on caring responsibilities during the working day, it has opened their eyes to other ways of sharing responsibilities.

“For other groups, homeworking has been a nightmare. Young people were most likely to struggle, which isn’t surprising given that many were working off ironing boards in the bedroom, or crowding into a communal kitchen with housemates. They also reported a worse work/life balance, partly because they missed the social life that comes with work. Many young people feel they’ve missed the chance to get on at work, and they’re most likely to say working from home has reduced their job opportunities.

“For business owners and managers, it has been a huge challenge to trust employees working in an entirely new way, without the same kinds of supervision they were used to. Many have struggled to get to grips with remote management and the ability to bring a team together when they’re scattered all over the place.

“For all of these people, some kind of hybrid working offers the best of both worlds. However, everyone defines hybrid working differently, so it’s going to be an enormous challenge for businesses to fit the jigsaw pieces together. If you have 30 people, enough space for 20, and they need to come together in 10 different combinations, it’s going to require some complex contortions. Add in the fact that they’ve been able to work whenever and however they wanted for the past year and it’s going to be like herding cats through the kind of intricate obstacle course a collie would struggle with.

“The danger is that employers will conclude it’s simply not possible, and order everyone back into the workplace every day. It risks wiping out the gains people have made in finding the work/life balance that works best for them. We all have a vested interest in making hybrid working effective, so the next few months will require us all to do what we can to make it work.”

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