Home working here to stay – survey

Majority of Midlands workers planning a mixed working style.

New independent polling commissioned by the British Council for Offices suggests that, once Government measures allow, the Midlands is set to move to a ‘mixed’ working style, with time in the office balanced with time at home.

The survey, which polled over 2,000 office workers nationwide, took place prior to new Government measures and found an appetite to get back to the office.

Asked about how they planned to work for the next six months, almost half of office workers (45%) in the Midlands and Wales intended to split their work between home and the office, while 32% were set for a full, five-day-a-week return to the office.

Office sceptics appear to have been silenced, though, as only 13% of respondents in the Midlands and Wales planned to only work from home compared to just 15% of office workers nationally.

These plans may be put on hold for now, given new Government guidance, but the survey suggests a new approach to how we intend to work in the medium-to-long term.

The survey also found that most Midlands and Wales office workers did return to their office in August, with 67% having spent some time in the office since August 1st, and almost a quarter (23%) having worked a full week back at their desk.

What’s more, our new hybrid habits span hierarchies. At the top end, 62% of UK senior executives said they planned to split their time between the home and the office, while 58% of trainees aimed to do the same.

Potentially uninspired creatives were particularly keen to return to the office. Only 7% of marketeers planned to work from home full time over the coming two quarters, making them the least keen profession to stay home, with 62% of this group stating they enjoy the creative exchanges that occur in the office.

Midlands and Wales respondents also highlighted the importance of the office to career development, with 72% stating that the office is important for developing networks and learning. Meanwhile, 65% said their career has been helped by relationships forged in the office and 72% agreed the office is important for forming connections with colleagues.

As a new generation of graduates enters the working world, this suggests remote working may cause difficulties for young employees, who are yet to form networks and arguably gain most from seeing how their colleagues work.

Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the British Council for Offices, said: “Our way of working is changing, and a new, mixed working approach is becoming popular. This does not mean the end of the office. The office is valuable for career development, which relies on forming networks and the informal lessons that come from watching senior colleagues operate. This is particularly true for young people, who would suffer if working from home ever became totally predominant.

“The coming months and years are an opportunity to reimagine the office and its purpose. It is time for Britain to return to the office, but doing so doesn’t mean a return to how we used to work. Let’s embrace the change.”

Danny Parmar, business development manager at Overbury in Birmingham and chair of the BCO Midlands and East Anglia Committee, said: “Does the office need to deliver more to survive in the long-term? The answer is probably yes, but what we’ve experienced is a temporary blip and certainly not a terminal decline. We’re likely to see a continuation of the trend for the workspace as a collaborative destination rather than a place to sit behind a desk five days a week.

“You only have to see the offices of companies such as Interface in Birmingham to get a glimpse of what the future looks like and it’s very much centred on the provision of stimulating and flexible workplace environments. In many ways the pandemic has accelerated our move towards this kind of office space becoming the norm.”

The polling was conducted by Toluna, an independent market research agency, and took place between 3rd–7th September .