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Research Shows UK Workers Under Pressure to Return to Unfit Workplaces

Research Shows UK Workers Under Pressure to Return to Unfit Workplaces
15 July 2021

Data from the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management warns that half of UK workers are being pressured to return to unfit office spaces by their bosses.

With COVID-19 restrictions set to end on July 19, including the government’s work from home guidance, the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management ​(IWFM) surveyed 2,000 employees to find out attitudes to returning to work in FM.

50 per cent responded that they felt pressured to return to unfit office spaces by their bosses. Of those who feel pressured to return, almost half (49 per cent) feel they are now more productive working from home than in the office. This was significantly higher amongst younger workers, with 50 per cent of 18-34 year olds compared to 40 per cent of those aged 55 and over. 


"The findings of this research warn that while a high number of businesses are well prepared to meet this new challenge, many are risking being unable to keep hold of their top talent if they fail to adapt their space, infrastructure and culture to new ways of working."

–Linda Hausmanis



61% Say Little Has Changed in Their Workplace Since First Lockdown


The survey also reveals that productivity may be being held back by a lack of spaces within offices to support new ways of working. 31 per cent of workers admit to struggling to perform basic tasks in the office compared to working from home. 48 per cent believe a lack of breakout spaces and meeting rooms is hindering collaborative working; whilst an additional 48 per cent report IT and technology systems need updating. 39 per cent of employees are also struggling to video call clients/colleagues working from home whilst in the office. 

Moreover, almost two thirds (61 per cent) of those who feel pressured to return claim little has changed in their place of work since the first lockdown, with 63 per cent believing their employers need to do more to adapt both their working cultures and facilities to enable hybrid working. Over half (55 per cent) are now calling for their spaces to be modernised. This was significantly higher amongst 18-34 year olds (56 per cent agreed) than over 55s (37 per cent) agreed.


Reviewing the Workplace Experience


Linda Hausmanis, CEO of the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management, commented: “Work is an activity, not a destination; this is the key take away from the mass home-working experiment we all had to live through over the last 16 months. As we slowly move out of lockdown, the challenge for employers is to ensure their offices and teams are ready for the transition away from full-time home working. The findings of this research warn that while a high number of businesses are well prepared to meet this new challenge, many are risking being unable to keep hold of their top talent if they fail to adapt their space, infrastructure and culture to new ways of working.

“Traditional views of the workplace have changed in the past year, and now is the time for organisations to acknowledge their responsibility and invest in a workplace strategy that supports productive work, whatever the destination. This goes beyond surface-level improvements or binary decisions between the office and home; businesses must review their entire workplace experience and culture in partnership with their teams as a matter of urgency to enable staff to do their best work wherever they may be.”

Daniel Guest, Chief Operating Officer, Technical Services at Mitie, commented that whilst it’s clear that people are ready to return to the office, but employees need to be reassured that their workplace is clean and safe:

“It’s important that businesses listen to their colleagues’ concerns and ensure the workplace is a safe environment ready for their return. This can include small gestures like hand sanitiser on desks and free masks, but also investing in technology like systems that use ultraviolet light to kill germs or thermal imaging cameras to detect when people have a raised temperature will go a long way to ensuring colleagues are confident with coming back to the office.”

Mitie has reopened its Head Office in The Shard, following the installation of UV air disinfection technology, thermal imaging cameras, and the use of long-lasting anti-viral cleaning products

Picture: a photograph of an office block 

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 15 July 2021


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