Workers in the UK spending less time in the office | A blog by Business Butler

Workers in the UK spending less time in offices

When the enforced mass exodus of employees from their places of work began in March 2020, companies had to turn to a new way of working. This transition to working from home (WFH) worked better than anticipated. Business owners and CEOs needn’t have fretted about production levels dropping and staff motivation flagging. The vast majority of businesses declared remote working a resounding success and agreed it was here to stay. In fact several CEOs of leading organisations stated they were happy for their staff to continue WFH and there was no need for them to return to their offices.

Then as the novelty of remote working wore off and lockdown restrictions eased, many companies opted for a hybrid solution where time was split between home and office, which offered greater flexibility to staff. However, this didn’t work for many companies and the top bosses reneged on their previous statement and issued a rallying call to round up their workers, demanding they return on a full-time basis to their rightful place, the office.

Empty desks across all sectors

This change of heart seemed to be followed by SMEs so it was interesting to read the findings from research carried out recently about the working patterns of office workers. The survey revealed that workers in the UK are spending an average of just 1.5 days per week in the office.

The research carried out by consultancy firm, Advanced Workplace Associates, surveyed nearly 50,000 workers across 43 offices in the UK during June and July. Average attendance in offices was 29%, with a peak of 39% during midweek and a low of 13% on Fridays.

According to the research, which focussed on the banking, healthcare, insurance, engineering, tech and energy sectors, office staff were attending the office for an average of 3.8 days per week before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Looking further back to last Spring and a survey by the Office of National Statistics indicated that the majority of people haven’t worked from home. This is probably down to the sheer volume of workers placed on furlough during lockdowns. The survey revealed that only 38% of working adults had worked from home.

Similar trend abroad

This trend in the UK largely reflected what was happening in other countries. Advanced Workplace Associates, which advises the Cabinet Office, Network Rail and NatWest, surveyed 27,000 people working in 36 offices across 12 countries.

The results reveal workers overseas were attending the office for an average of 1.4 days a week in comparison with 3.8 days pre-Covid-19 pandemic. The average attendance was 26% with a mid-week peak of 35%. North America and surprisingly Latin America had the lowest average attendance. Unsurprisingly banking held the highest attendance records of all sectors surveyed and the tech industry enjoyed the lowest.

The survey indicated that companies with hybrid working policies in place had a higher attendance record than those who didn’t. Staff appeared to be working in the office less than their company policy mandated. Another interesting fact is that businesses placing trust in their teams to set their own policies benefited from an attendance of 41%, which matches that of firms where a three-day week is imposed.

Changing city centres

The decrease in the number of office workers is having a profound affect on city centres throughout the UK. The City of London has lost 14% of restaurants during the past two years, as an estimated one in seven businesses switched to remote working. Birmingham reported the same percentage loss and Glasgow has suffered a 10% closure of hospitality businesses.

When you consider the fact that many smaller cafes, takeaways and restaurants have been built on trade from office workers it isn’t surprising. Some of these smaller owner managed eateries rely on office workers for up to 80% of their custom.

With closures of restaurants and retail stores rising and half empty offices, local governments need to repurpose town and city centres to ensure they don’t become ghost towns.

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