Nine 10ths (89%) of UK employees would be happiest with a fully flexible approach to returning to the office, according to an IPA report.
The report – which was published today (2 June) and surveyed the views of 1,000 UK-based office workers – found that workers preferred the option to work as many days remotely or from the office as they wished.
The next most popular solution is a structured 3:2 working model, with 75% participants favouring the combination of remote and office working.
Working full time in the office was the least favourite option for participants, at less than a third of respondents (31%). But this number is significantly larger among people in their first jobs (68%) and those who have been furloughed at least once during the coronavirus pandemic (59%).
“The world has changed in the last year,” Paul Bainsfair, director general at the IPA, said.
“How we feel about work/life balance and the commute will influence not only the work we create and media we select but the nature of our own offices.”
Hailing the report as a “timely look at the public mood as the country resets”, Bainsfair said that the actions of agencies over the next few months could “potentially change our workplaces in the long term”.
The report also found that workers are most concerned about returning to their commute during the pandemic (38%), followed by concerns over the office being Covid secure (31%) and the additional costs of working in the office (29%), such as travel and lunch.
On the other hand, participants claimed they were looking forward to seeing colleagues face to face (48%), getting out of the house (41%) and working better with their colleagues (34%), with one in five looking forward to “feeling less lonely”.
“With more than 39 million people having now received a first dose of the vaccine, a return to the office will hopefully be less fleeting than it was last year,” Jamie Britton, insight manager at the IPA, said. “But after more than a year of getting accustomed to the flexibility afforded by remote working, the flexible workplace is now writ large.
“As our survey suggests – and as reported in our qualitative work among agency members – a fully flexible model is what people want and expect, at least in the short term as we feel ourselves back into the office environment.”
Four in five participants believe their employer should offer mental wellness initiatives on returning to the office, while a quarter of those asked said they are anxious about feeling stressed upon their return.
More than two thirds of respondents (68%) expect to see a dedicated infrastructure for communicating while working remotely in the next two to three years.
Britton continued: “The general optimism around returning to the office is heartening and speaks to the resilience of adlanders and other office workers alike.
“Yet there is no one-size-fits-all solution – engaging employees and acknowledging the barriers that remain will be key."
The topic will be debated at an upcoming IPA Council meeting next month.