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Return to work U-turn: employees demand flexibility most firms lack

Office workers are now demanding new levels of flexibility in working arrangements following COVID-19 remote working, according to new research from Smartway2

Office workers are now demanding new levels of flexibility in working arrangements following COVID-19 remote working. That’s according to a new survey of 189 office-based workers carried out this month by SmartWay2. The survey shows employees’ want a mixture of workplace options and explored the benefits and drawbacks of returning to offices full time, or not.

The research shows those wishing to work from home full time represented just 6% of the entire workforce. These outnumbered those wishing to work from the office full time three to one, 2%, respectively.

Most employee opinions sit between and there was a wide variety of opinions on the ideal split between offices. 39% preferred to work from home the majority of the time, 21% in the office the majority of time while 32% opted for an equal split. This shows employees want to mix it up. On average, people prefer to work in the office a couple of days a week and from home the rest of the time.

The CBI described the recent Government rule changes on working from home “if you can” as ‘disappointing’ to the thousands of UK businesses getting used to the ‘new normal’ COVID-Clear office procedures. Catering for such a range of preferences is sowing confusion with employers, trade unions and office space managers. Many today manage complex office arrangements such as social distancing, deep clearing regimes and track & trace of offices down to meeting rooms and individual desks.

Steve Vatidis, Executive Chairman of SmartWay2 commented: “Businesses are now realising they need to manage the return to the office for those who want to and can do it, but they are not equipped to cope with so many changes across the whole workforce. This is irrespective of daily changing trends or government guidance – it is now imperative for businesses to address the choices of employees to make them feel in control.

He concluded, “Even prior to recent Government announcements, office-based employers faced a hard task persuading nervous workers to return to a safe working environment. Employees are demanding unprecedented levels of autonomy in where and when they work. Such flexibility, which is vital to economic recovery, can only be provided with digital office and deskspace management”

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