‘Returning to the workplace’ research: majority of UK employees expect a move to hybrid working


  • COVID-19,
  • Workplace

21 April 2021


As businesses look to once again reopen their doors following an easing of lockdown measures, our new research has found that the vast majority of employees will expect a level of ‘hybrid’ working in the future - with nearly half (44%) of the workforce planning to work from the office for 3 days or fewer a week.

The findings also revealed that 63% of employees now believe the office to be unnecessary - a rise of a fifth since the first lockdown (51%).

The latest phase of this time-series research, which surveyed 2,000 office workers across the country in March 2021 following similar surveys in April and June 2020, shows that demand for hybrid working is particularly prevalent in the younger demographic. Two-thirds (66%) of 18-24-year-olds admitted that not being offered flexible work patterns would cause them to look for a new job. Yet worryingly, more than a third (38%) of this demographic feel their employer is pressuring them to return to the office - risking losing new talent.

We are calling on employers to ensure that hybrid working is accessible for all; providing adequate choice and support for employees to perform their role from multiple locations, in order to avoid losing younger workers to competitors.

Chris Moriarty, Director of Insight at the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management comments: ‘More than a year on, we continue to see employers striving to strike the right balance between remote and office working. The benefits of the office have not been forgotten, yet we continue to become accustomed and comfortable with our home working routines.

‘The truth is home versus office working should not be viewed as a binary choice between focus and connection. A true commitment to ‘hybrid working’ will give employees and employers flexibility to work in a way that is best suited to them - allowing them to reap the productivity and social benefits of both home and office working environments, how and when it best suits their needs. Employers should now make every effort to provide staff with genuine choice to perform their role wherever they feel their performance would be best supported - adapting the office space, incentives and policies to reflect the changing nature of the workspace environment.’

More than three-quarters (79%) of 18-24-year-olds believe that they will be equally as productive or more productive working from home. This demographic is also working the most unpaid overtime from home - on average 11.6 extra hours a week - and has invested on average nearly £300 in creating a suitable working environment at home (£292). 

Chris continues, ‘The COVID-19 crisis has left a permanent mark on our view of the workplace - and a knee-jerk return to the pre-pandemic status quo risks serious implications for businesses in attracting and nurturing talent. The responsibility now falls on organisations to think about their employee experience beyond the boundaries of their corporate workspace. Effective employers will already be thinking of how to support employees and provide a suitable working environment for them, wherever and however they choose to work.’

This is only a glimpse of our research findings. To find out more, please visit our COVID-19 ‘Returning to work’ hub.