Four out of ten employees currently working from home would consider defecting to another employer if they were forced to return to full-time office working, according to a new poll.
The survey found an “overwhelming desire” by office workers for continued flexibility from their bosses even when Covid-19 restrictions are fully lifted.
In evidence of likely tension ahead, only 17 per cent of those polled wanted to return to the office full time, while 24 per cent say a return to full-time office working is precisely what their employers are requiring of them.
The poll, on the eve of so-called freedom day, comes amid warnings to employers that they are making a mistake if they issue blanket instructions for employees to return the office.
The poll of 4,400 people by YouGov last month found that 80 per cent wanted some ability to carry on working from home; 15 per cent wanted full-time home working, 26 per cent wanted it most days and 25 per cent wanted an equal split between staying at home and going to the office.
While many employers with office staff are making provision for hybrid working arrangements after restrictions are fully lifted, the survey found workers wanted more flexibility than employers were willing to give.
“Thomas Kessler, chief executive of Locatee, a workplace consultancy which commissioned the research, said: ‘The expectations of office workers have shifted enormously over the last 12 months’”.
Forty two per cent of employees said it would be “likely” to be a resigning matter if they were asked to return to the office full-time, with 22 per cent of them being “much more likely” to change jobs.
Some employers are increasingly concerned that remote working could be damaging productivity, morale and employee learning. However, expectations of a big return to the office on Monday have receded because of the change of tone from ministers and worries that it could increase the chances of being pinged and told to self-isolate, threatening holiday plans.
Richard Fox, an employment partner at Kingsley Napley, said government guidance to employers issued this week meant it would be far harder than some employers had expected to insist that their workers return to the workplace.