Well over half of Brits are happy to return to work – but all five days in the office is history

After two years of homeworking due to Covid-19, UK office workers are heading back to their desks – but the overwhelming majority are not doing a full five-day week in the office. That’s according to the latest research from eFax, the cloud-based fax solution for businesses, which found that only 18 percent of workers are back at their offices for the entire working week.

The majority – 52 percent – are only working one or two days per week in the office, with just under a fifth (19 percent) managing three days at their old desk.  The reluctance to return full-time to offices is also borne out by one key finding – just four percent of the sample want to return to the old working pattern of being entirely office-based.

Scott Wilson, Vice President of Sales & Service at eFax, stated: “Our research highlights that no matter what the age group, people are aware of the intangible benefits of office working such as collaboration and career progression.  But this is only part of the picture.  Nearly two years of home working has transformed attitudes to the working environment. Formal dressing and business etiquette are out. What’s in among employees is better, smarter, more private workspaces.”

In early 2022, eFax conducted a major research project to gain a greater understanding of how UK workers felt about returning to the office. The survey polled 503 UK workers in large enterprises, small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and public sector organisations.

Key findings included:

  • 52 percent of UK workers are now only in the office one or two days a week.  Only 18 percent of the sample stated they were back at their desks full time
  • These figures were dramatically different in London where only 40 percent were in for one or two days, indicating that the return to all five days in the office is back in the capital far faster than other regions
  • The 45-54 age group is clearly far happier working at home with 55 percent of the sample in one or two days and the rest of the week at home
  • Getting up early (65 percent), having to wear formal clothing (43 percent) and the cost of commuting (47 percent) all act as drags on people returning to the office
  • UK workers are, however, well aware of the benefits of working in an office environment. Over half (51 percent) enjoy the social side of work, collaboration is also seen as critical (47 percent) and access to technology (33 percent) and informal conversations (54 percent) are all reported as important drivers to returning
  • 22 percent of the sample are not very happy to be back at the office at all: a further eight percent absolutely hate it

Wilson continued: “The return to the office after the pandemic has highlighted a number of issues for employees and employers alike, which enlightened companies should look to address if they want to encourage more workers back into the office. One of the key findings that came out from the research was the neglected and unloved state that workers found their offices when they returned to them after lockdown. A quarter of our sample said that when they returned, they found dead and dying plants. And if that was a shock, 17 percent said they came back to unwashed mugs, cobwebs, and unemptied bins. Well over one in four people (28 percent) came back to offices with no tea or coffee!”

Importantly, the eFax research also identified what employers could do to improve office attendance – including changes to the office space itself.

“Top of the wish list is new dedicated space for employees to take virtual meetings,” explained Wilson. “Video conferencing took off during lockdown and is now a recognised working tool – offices need to consider redesigning their workspace to allow for this. Some 45 percent of our sample wanted it, a further 24 percent want dedicated areas for phone pods for private calls, and 19 percent want to see greater investment in technology for conferencing.

“If this research highlights anything it is that UK workers are looking to replicate homeworking in the office. We’re now used to a more informal dress code, a loosening of etiquette, plus the privacy to do our jobs without constant interruption. If British businesses want their employees back in the office five days a week, now is not the time to skimp on investing in new technology and workspaces. Now is the time to recognise that over the last two years we’ve all been through a dramatic transformation in the way we work and to make the necessary changes that correspond with this new normal,” concluded Wilson.