The Great British work (from home) force

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More than half of UK workers have rejected the idea of working in an office again, research conducted to mark the third anniversary of the UK entering Covid-19 lockdown has revealed.

The statistic emerged from a UK-wide national survey commissioned by global asynchronous video interview platform Willo to gauge how working habits in the UK have changed since the first lockdown was introduced to combat the spread of Covid-19 on March 23, 2020.

Some 56 per cent of people in the UK said lockdown had made them unlikely to consider working from an office, with older workers least likely to do so – where 77 per cent said they wouldn’t consider it. Regionally, Wales has the highest number of workers unlikely to consider working from an office again (63 per cent), while six in 10 people in the South East of England also said they were unlikely to.

Meanwhile, around a third of workers (32 per cent) also said they’d quit their job if employers wouldn’t allow them to work from home. People under 45 were even more likely to do so (16–24-year-olds 44 per cent; 25–34-year-olds 52 per cent; 35-44 year-olds 44 per cent). Just 14 per cent of over 55s said they’d leave.

Around 40 per cent of respondents even said they’d retrain to do a job that enables them to work remotely.

Workers in Greater London are most likely to quit if unable to work from home, with around half (48 per cent) saying they’d leave their job if bosses asked them to return to the office full time. Workers in the North East of England were least likely to quit, with more than a fifth (22 per cent) saying they’d leave if refused the right to work from home.

Working from home became essential for the majority of the nation during Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, when the UK Government advised people to work from home even once restrictions eased. Only ‘key workers’ such as medical staff, emergency services, and shop workers were excepted.

Employers have increasingly called on staff to return to offices, with a separate survey conducted by Slack published earlier this year revealing 50 per cent of leaders want workforces back on site.

Around half of respondents to the Willo study, conducted by Opinion Matters, said they would now consider applying for a job that enables them to work from home (47 per cent), with the same number going a step further and considering roles that enable them to work from anywhere in the world (47 per cent).

Around four in 10 respondents also said they will never spend as much time commuting as they did before the pandemic (39 per cent), with those under 44-years-old again less likely to do so.

Euan Cameron, founder of Willo, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic drove the biggest change to working habits since the industrial revolution. It changed what we thought was possible when it comes to work, and for the better.

“Three years is enough time to show a true shift in worker and employer behaviour. It’s no secret that lockdowns were the final hurdle on remote working going mainstream, but what this survey shows is that working from home is now considered a right, not a perk or privilege. If workers aren’t afforded it, they’ll vote with their feet and I think we ’ll see more of that as years progress.

“Nobody will forget the pain suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, but if there’s a silver lining it’s the acceleration of much-needed changes in the way we live and work, and they’re here to stay.”

By Mark Adair, Correspondent, Bdaily

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