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Coronavirus: Most UK workers don't want to go back to offices

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2-min read
People commute on London Bridge during the morning rush hour after the introduction of measures to bring the country out of lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, in London, Wednesday May 20, 2020. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)
Commuters on London Bridge. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

Most UK office workers do not want to return to normal workplaces and hours as the reopening of the economy gathers pace, according to a survey.

A poll shared exclusively by Yahoo Finance UK suggests many staff who can work remotely are comfortable doing so, and are worried about virus risks on public transport.

The survey of 2,000 staff by Theta Financial Reporting, a chartered accountancy and consultancy firm, explored how the pandemic has hit employers hard and overhauled working practices.

Almost two-thirds of UK workers in the nationally representative poll agreed with the statement: “I do not feel comfortable commuting to work via public transport anymore, and think it will be one of the most stressful parts of my day.”

A majority, 57% of those surveyed, said they did not want to go back to “the normal way of working in an office environment with normal office hours.”

But UK office workers appear divided on their desire to get back to the pre-virus normal. Around a third agreed that going back to traditional office environments would have a negative impact on their mental health and productivity, but another third disagreed.

READ MORE: UK workers suffer steepest drop in pay in decades

The survey also showed how employers had changed significantly in the wake of the crisis. 45% of business leaders among those surveyed said they “see the working environment changing for the better.”

46% of those surveyed said their employer had explored flexible working options to help them and colleagues return to work. Only 24% said their employer had not done so. A third of workers said only a smaller team would return to the office, handling more varied responsibilities.

But the survey also pointed to the scale of job losses caused by the crisis, echoing official figures showing 3.2 million universal credit benefit claims between early March and early June.

Around three in 10 business leaders said they had “streamlined their team permanently because of the COVID-19 crisis as they discovered some roles were surplus to requirements.”

Chris Biggs, founder and managing director of Theta Financial Reporting, said the research suggested some business leaders wanted to reopen workplaces “regardless of safety and their own employees’ wants and needs.”

READ MORE: UK employers have slashed 600,000 jobs since March

He said the UK government and large employers should consult workforces on their views about returning to workplaces and how traditional environments could change.

“Many businesses have adapted to working away from the office and with so many people caring for vulnerable relatives, friends and children, it seems people do not want to return in July, despite the easing of lockdown restrictions,” he said.

Biggs, whose firm specialises in “freelance working options for the UK private sector,” added that millions of workers may have discovered the benefits in recent months of flexible working, from no commutes to better productivity.