We report on the highlights from our latest research into how firms are planning a post-Covid workplace into 2022. Flexibility may remain a priority, but the office is reclaiming its space in a hybrid future.

Enthusiasm for the office is back. Perhaps there remains a little anxiety – winter is coming, after all – but on the whole people have missed seeing each other in person. When one firm told us they were ‘desperate to have people back – it’s been too long’, it reflected the mood of many of our recent conversations: office normality has become an aspiration, just so long as people still get the flexibility to work from home.

As firms and employees try to navigate this new hybrid approach to work – some days spent in the office and others still at home – we thought it was time to re-run our ‘Return to the office’ survey that we first conducted in March 2021. How far has sentiment around a post-Covid workplace changed between March and September? How many people are already back in the office and to what degree? And how are firms planning for the future workplace – are we going hybrid forever?

Many of the questions replicated the March survey, allowing us to make a direct comparison of views; but some are new, reflecting the shifting environment.

While the following details a few highlights from the findings, you can receive a full copy of the PDF report, including all questions and data, via the contact details below.

Highlights of Totum’s ‘Return to the office’ survey findings 2021

  • In March 2021, 71% of respondent firms were still discussing how to return to the office, with 13% having made no decision at all. Fast forward to September 2021 and only 8% of respondent firms are still discussing their return.
  • Most already have a hybrid working policy in place, with 50% of respondents bringing in a firm-wide policy and the other 50% publishing guidelines that can be interpreted by location or individual team.
  • Most have already begun hybrid working with the majority (83%) offering hybrid working to all employees – a rise from 71% back in March – with the favourite option being three days spent the office, two at home, followed by a 50/50 split with specific days decided by employees.
  • Not surprisingly, most want their employees to live within a commutable distance of the office (77%), a rise from 52% in September. But it is interesting that 36% of respondents are planning to allow employees to work anywhere in the UK (a rise from 19% in March), with the same percentage allowing them to work abroad for short periods of time.
  • Most (75%) think these are permanent changes to working policies although that’s a drop from March when 90% of respondents thought the same. More are now undecided (21% compared to none in March), albeit very few (just 4%) think the changes are only short term.
  • The most positive impact of moving to more hybrid models remains improvement in wellbeing and morale (67% in Sept compared to 71% in March). But alongside that is an uptick in numbers thinking hybrid working will save office costs (17% in March to 29% in Sept). In a later question, 38% of respondents said they were already redesigning their office space and 24% are considering leasing their office space (a rise from 11% in March).
  • At the same time, there is a drop in the number that think hybrid working will cause cultural challenges (from 54% in March to 33% in Sept). There is also a rise in those that think hybrid working will improve productivity and performance (from 13% in March to 33% Sept).

Overall, there is a sense that firms want to work with employees as best they can, with morale/wellbeing and meeting everyone’s needs paramount in the planning. That most firms (92%) are not making double vaccination a condition of returning to the office and 83% will not make employees take a lateral flow test before going into the office (although half will encourage employees to do so), it seems fair to say that firms want a return to the office that is based on mutual trust and fair compromise.

There is a real desire now to return to the office, but it has to be one that reflects our shared experience of the past 18 months – a post-Covid workplace that is reinvigorated and renewed to meet the needs of a new flexible age.

If you would like to see a copy of the full PDF report, including all data and complete analysis, please contact [email protected] 


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