UK Workers Miss the Office

We miss the office - more than half of UK workers miss office ‘small talk’ and building relationship with colleagues when working remotely, study finds.

London, 13th July: As the UK government calls for workers to begin returning to the office, more than half of the UK workforce claim they miss office ‘small talk’ and building relationships with colleagues (59.7%). One-third (31.4%) are also struggling without the separation of home and the office, and one-third (29.9%) miss ‘feeling part of something’ when working remotely. These are among the key findings from a first-of-its-kind study launched today by behavioural science consultancy, Mind Gym.

 

Meanwhile, one-third (30.1%) of the workforce admits to being less productive, and one-third (36.7%) are less motivated whilst working from home. One in five (19.7%) also miss ‘learning from colleagues’, with one in four (24.7%) not knowing ‘what is going on’ with their wider company whilst working from home. The research comes as Michael Gove publicly asks for workers to begin returning to the office, and with the government expected to announce easing of public transport restrictions this week.

 

The study, conducted through consultation with over 2,000 respondents from the UK workforce – all of whom are currently employed and working from home (i.e., not on furlough or serving notice) – has highlighted that leadership and management need to work candidly with their workforce to navigate the return to work period, and ensure that wellbeing and morale are operational priorities.

 

Octavius Black, co-founder and CEO of Mind Gym and behavioural science expert commented: “You can’t create a culture on zoom. Looking at the spectrum of company approaches from Twitter allowing staff to work remotely forever to several leading companies who expect people to be in their office, or clients’ offices, most of the time, the science shows that those with staff who come into the office will largely outperform those who don’t.

 

Spending time in the office isn’t just good for productivity, it’s also essential for wellbeing as it helps combat loneliness, counter chronic stress, generate insight and boose our energy.

 

Most companies have managed the crisis well, however some are under the illusion that working remotely is sustainable indefinitely. This is high risk, as the workforce is feeling significantly less motivated and less productive. In our study 80% of people want to spend at least one day a week in the office. People desperately need social interactions, informal connections and the general ambience of the working environment.”

 

Whilst flexible working and operating from home is likely to become a permanent feature, business leaders would be wise to ensure a level of hybrid working so colleagues can build relationships, innovate faster and collaborate successfully.

 

Of those surveyed, an extreme majority of participants within legal fields (90%), sales, media and marketing (81.82%) and HR (76.93%) displayed that they are anxious about the return to the physical workplace. Over half of respondents from industries which can’t operate as easily from a home office are too displaying signs that they do not want to be within a physical office with any urgency, such as respondents in the arts sector (54.54%) and travel sector (52.18%).

 

Data from this same Mind Gym survey highlighted that a significant proportion of the UK have experienced weaker work relationships (15.2%) since lockdown. Whilst the thought of being in an office produces feelings of anxiety for such a large portion, it’s clear that there are positives to the office environment which management aren’t currently equipped to effectively replicate whilst working remotely: namely, the ability to be around colleagues. The data shows that those softer elements of work life are integral, as the UK workforce is significantly missing informal conversations (36.99%), building relationships (23.82%) and learning from colleagues (19.77%).

 

Octavius continues: “The informal air that an office environment brings is often integral to business growth, as well as the personal growth of employees. What could start as an informal chat can easily find its way to a developed, intelligent idea, which now doesn’t happen with such ease. Zoom calls and team meetings with rigid agendas don’t mimic this natural brilliance that can often happen in person.

 

“Whilst these shortfalls of remote working aren’t simple to overcome, those in leadership roles owe it to their employees to at least address this, in turn reducing workforce anxiety. The importance of communication and encouraging collaborative learning to somewhat mimic the office environment, as well as working with employees on an individual level to learn about their concerns, is crucial.

 

“To support businesses as they plan for a smooth return to the office, Mind Gym has developed a 10-point plan, including the below points:

 

  1. Empathise with employees’ fears – maybe share some of your own – but also support with data on risks of infection vs other health challenges
  2. Make sure that the first people to come back do so voluntarily and share with remote workers what it’s like for these early returners in social media
  3. Remind people how they will gain personally such as sparking ideas off each other, learning faster, and having a laugh.”

 

Due to the pandemic, almost half (44%) of working adults in the UK have undertaken the working from home procedure, as directed by the UK government. Whilst guidelines currently advise employees who can operate from home to do so, there is a clear sense of movement from employers and HR as they prepare for some form of a return to the office in the coming months. Whilst businesses and employees alike can benefit from a physical workspace, it is the role of those in leadership positions to ensure that they do what they can to prepare and alleviate the pressures from their employees.

 

MindGym is a behavioural science consultancy that helps companies such as Unilever, Microsoft, Audi and GlaxoSmithKline, as well as most of FTSE100 and S&P 100, to realise their people advantage and improve business performance.

 

The research was conducted in partnership with Censuswide, one of the world’s leading insight-drive research consultancies. The data was gathered through an online consultation with over 2,000 respondents, all of whom are fully employed in the UK and currently working from home.

 

*(Remote worker in this instance refers to a person working from home for an extended period of time as a result of the lockdown)

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