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  • Rhona Jamieson

Let Us Choose Where We Work

We have all adapted to life under the ‘new normal’ as we wait for a vaccine or treatment to become available for Covid-19, but what happens if this isn’t possible? New research confirms a large proportion of the population is ready to accept significant long-term changes such as choosing where they work.

King's College London has been monitoring attitudes to remote working since the pandemic began. Together with Ipsos MORI, they have surveyed over two-thousand people in the UK to find out just how happy they would be if this became the new model for most employees.

They found that 86% of respondents said it was acceptable for employees to be able to choose whether they worked in the office or from home if no vaccine or treatment is available.

A bar graph with 33% saying completely acceptable, 53% acceptable and the rest either neutral or unacceptable
How acceptable is it for employees to choose whether they work in an office or at home? Source: Ipsos MORI/King's College London

Many employers are already giving their staff the choice as their premises open up again. Some are actively encouraging their workers to stay at home if they can. Last month we shared how big firms such as Google, Fujitsu and Twitter have already put in place permanent or long-term home working strategies. We may have been forced into it, but lockdown has proved that working from home is effective for a large proportion of workers, with many saying they are more productive and able to manage their work/life balance better.

However, what happens if we are forced to return to the office to help the struggling retail and hospitality industries? What if the government made it mandatory to return to how things used to be, even without a vaccine? The same survey from Ipsos MORI suggests that people have mixed feelings about this with only 47% of the respondents saying they would find this an acceptable situation.

A bar chart with 9% saying completely acceptable, 38% acceptable, 14% neutral, 31% Unacceptable and 8% completely unacceptable.
How acceptable is it for employees to have to return to their workplace when the government tells them to? Source: Ipsos MORI/King's College London

Gideon Skinner, Research Director at Ipsos MORI, said: “The research shows the significant impact that Covid-19 has had on our lives, with few Britons expecting a return to life as normal any time soon, and many prepared to undertake a wide range of measures over a longer period of time to reduce the risk of spread, if a vaccine or effective treatment cannot be found.”

Professor Bobby Duffy, Director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, said: “The government may have more to do if it’s to convince people they should return to their workplace. People are still prioritising public health over the economy and their own social lives.”

For many of us, working from home works, especially as more of us are now adapting our domestic space to provide a better working environment. A new, comfortable, height-adjustable chair or ergonomic accessories mean we can work just as effectively away from the office. Not all situations are conducive to remote working of course, but it seems most of us want to have the choice of whether we continue at home or venture back to the office, even if there is no effective vaccine or treatment.

The full research can be read on the King’s College London Policy Institute website.

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