The verdict is in: Londoners enjoy and value working from home and don’t see a future that includes a return to the old five-day office week, no matter what politicians, their bosses or the media say.
Almost 80 percent of London-based staff who now work remotely at least once a week say the experience has been good for them, according to a report published on Wednesday by the Policy Institute at King’s College London. Four out of five say working from home helps them feel more in control and that they’re happy to cut down on their daily commute. Two-thirds say it’s helped them better manage home and family responsibilities.
YouGov surveyed 2,015 London workers for the King’s College report, a cohort that included people who live outside the city and travel into a place of work. King’s researchers say the study is the first of its kind to focus specifically on the impact of changing working patterns.
The findings back up the experiences of white-collar workers around the world, many of whom are continuing to work from home several times a week even as the threat of COVID-19 recedes.
The King’s study comes as employees across the UK begin an official six-month experiment working a four-day work week. More than 3,000 workers at 70 companies will take part in the trial with no loss of pay, in what organizers say is the biggest pilot of its type to take place anywhere in the world.
“For all the political and media focus on whether working from home means working less hard, most people disagree with this view, regardless of their politics, age or seniority,” said Mark Kleinman, professor of public policy at King’s.
Three in five respondents said they would react negatively if they were forced to come into the office more often — despite the fact that they still feel positive about their offices and don’t find it difficult to get work done there. Among the biggest benefits to working from home are avoiding the commute, managing home responsibilities and feeling a greater sense of control.
“Our society grew up with the expectation that there was one person at home running the home and one person earning the money,” said Christine Armstrong, a UK-based workplace researcher who was not involved in the King’s study. Until the pandemic changed everything, “we got to a place where we didn’t know how it all fitted in with work,” she said.
Not all trends appear positive. Those surveyed were twice as likely to agree that widespread remote-work policies will disproportionately hurt young people’s careers. Equally, 50 percent of workers think senior managers work regularly from home while just 27 percent feel their bosses encourage them to do the same.
“Elon Musk wanting people to go to the office is no surprise. It’s not the world that he lives in,” said Armstrong. “You have a disconnect in some organizations between senior leaders for whom it all used to work fine, and younger generations.”
Away from the daily grind there is less agreement on the future of London itself. Respondents were split almost evenly on whether the quality of life in central London is at risk if workplaces don’t fill up to pre-pandemic levels. Older workers are much more likely to be pessimistic.
But the popularity of remote work doesn’t mean that workers dislike their London offices. The study shows almost two-thirds of employees feel positive about attending the workplace, while only 15 percent feel negative about being there.
It’s the volume of office days that plays the biggest part in staff satisfaction, according to Tara Reich, reader in organizational behavior and resource management at King’s Business School. “The opportunity to work from home has given many London workers a sense of control that they aren’t keen to give up,” she said.
Top photo: A worker uses a desktop computer while working from home in Stow Maries, UK, on April 8, 2020.
Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg