Employers haven’t always embraced hybrid and remote ways of working. However, with the first lockdown in March 2020, many businesses across the UK had to shut their office doors and ask their employees to work from home.
Fast forward 2 years, and employers have opened their doors again. But what has changed, and how do employees really feel about their return to work?
We’ve surveyed 1,000 workers, aged between 18-55, from small-medium businesses in the UK to find out.
We wanted to understand what employees really thought about these changes both positive and negative and to get a gauge of how employees feel about returning to the office.
Significant Shift in Working Patterns Post-Pandemic
What Employees Really Think About Returning to the Office
How The Office Return Is Affecting Productivity, Health and Home Life
As things continue to get closer to what we are used to, it is clear there has been a significant shift in working patterns and traditional office working is no longer the norm.
73% of employees said they went into the office every day before Covid, compared to only 28% who were hybrid working or fully remote.
The working landscape is very different to what it was. Even though most restrictions have been lifted and offices have opened their doors to staff once again, full-time office working seems to be a thing of the past.
When asked about their working pattern post-pandemic, most employees said they now work using a hybrid model.
Of the employees hybrid working, 36% said they go into the office 2 days a week, on average. This was closely followed by 31% saying they went in 1 day a week.
No one could have predicted just how well employees would adjust to working from home.
Despite this, some employers still reverted back to their old ways of working and asked employees to return to the office full time. But is this what employees want?
44% of the 274 respondents who said they were back working full time in the office said they would prefer the choice of hybrid working.
We also found that working from home was the second most important benefit for employees in the Drewberry™ 2022 Workplace Pension Survey…
Employers may be missing out by not offering their employees hybrid working. This simple yet highly effective employee benefit can increase employee productivity, improve job satisfaction and reduce stress levels.
Not too bad for something that costs nothing to implement.
Returning to the office didn’t come without its challenges. Plans and procedures were put in place to protect the health and wellbeing of employees.
Despite the exceptional circumstances, employers generally did a good job. When asked whether they thought their employer handled their return to work well, 62% of respondents agreed.
Not only did employees feel their employer handled their return to work well, but 71% also felt their employer made their work environment Covid-safe.
Some people thrived working from home, not wanting to return to the office. Others found it a real challenge and couldn’t wait to get back.
So, with working life getting back to what we are used to, what effect has returning to the office had on employees?
After working at home for the best part of 2 years, it is no surprise that, when asked what employees most enjoyed being back in the office, they said being around their co-workers.
They also enjoy that returning to the office gives them time away from home and helps them be more productive.
Although employees enjoy certain aspects of being back in the office, there are some clear drawbacks.
When asked what they least enjoy about being back in the office, the top 3 reasons were additional costs (48%), risk of catching Covid (42%) and reduced work-life balance (35%).
Working from home comes with a whole different set of distractions that can prevent employees from getting things done. For some, returning to the office was exactly what was needed to regain focus and increase productivity.
23% of respondents said they felt their productivity levels had increased since returning to the office.
It wasn’t just productivity levels that improved, either. Another 23% said they felt their mental health had also improved.
When asked why they thought their productivity had improved since returning to the office, 51% of respondents said it was down to better communication.
This was closely followed by office buzz helping employees to focus (47%) and having a better daily routine (47%).
When asked why they felt their mental health had improved since returning to the office, 74% said it was due to being back around their co-workers.
This was followed by having a better daily routine and a better work-life balance.
For others, being back in the office hasn’t had such a positive effect, with 20% of respondents saying their productivity and mental health had become worse since returning.
The top 3 reasons respondents felt there had been a decline in their productivity levels were:
Employees reported a poorer work-life balance, the daily commute and fear of becoming unwell as the 3 main reasons for their mental health declining since returning to the office.
It’s not just the mental health and productivity of some employees that seems to have worsened since returning to the office – their home life is taking a hit, too.
When asked, ‘Has your home life changed since being back in the office?’ 23% of employees said it had become worse.
Lack of sleep, less time for housework and feeling more stressed were the main reasons employees felt there had been a decline.
The working landscape we find ourselves in today is very different to what it was just a few years ago.
Hybrid and remote working may have become the ‘new norm’ and the preferred way to work for most employees. However, there is still a need for traditional office working for a lot of people.
Hybrid and home working certainly have their advantages, but it simply cannot replace being in the office for some employees.
So, before implementing a blanket approach, employers need to listen to how their employees want to work. From there, they can consider which ways of working suit their business on the whole.
Some employees may thrive working from home 4 days a week, whereas others may want to be back in the office full time. It’s all about balance and providing employees with different options.