Working through COVID-19: What behaviours will bounce back and what will stick?

Research from Nationwide Building Society and Ipsos reveals tensions over the future of homeworking as employers and employees navigate its benefits and challenges.

The author(s)

  • Billie Ing Head of Trends
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Ipsos’s Chief Executive, Ben Page, says it’s too soon to tell whether the homeworking revolution that COVID-19 has forced on many office workers will stick. New research from Nationwide Building Society and Ipsos reveals that nine in ten (90%) of those currently working from home want to keep doing so at least one day a week in future but this doesn’t signify the end of offices. Despite six in ten (61%) thinking working from home leads to a better work-life balance, people don’t expect their employers to allow them to work at home as much as they’d like to in future.

Bosses calling people back to the office (at least some of the time) may not be an entirely bad thing: 43% of remote workers think they need face-to-face time with their colleagues to work effectively. This sentiment is even more pronounced among the young, who may benefit most from in-person conversations, mentorship and training as they start their careers.

Ben Page, Chief Executive of Ipsos UK, said:

I worry about the social capital of the hundreds of people who have joined since [COVID-19] and have never seen the inside of our office.

Differences in location, income and gender have also caused differences in the way people have seen their working lives change after COVID-19. While two thirds (67%) of homeworkers have been happy to reduce commuting, many have also noticed their bills increase. Not everyone has a study in their home or a comfortable place to work. Around a fifth (19%) rate the quality of their private spaces to work from home as poor and one in ten have a bad internet connection.

For these reasons, we might see blended work becoming more popular in future – with people spending part of their week at home and part of it in the office. This blended model might give people the ‘best of both worlds’ by allowing them the benefits of homeworking while ensuring office relationships don’t deteriorate.

Roger Steare, The Corporate Philosopher, said:

What has now surprised many is how trust has actually increased because of the humanity of our home working environments. Instead of the sterile utility of the office, we might see our colleagues’ partners bring them a cup of coffee, or a child coming into view with a home-schooling question, or a cat walking across the desk. Whilst employers have had no option but to trust many of their employees to be more independent in decision-making, the humanising impact of working from home has shown that trust is stronger than control, coercion and compliance.

Joe Garner, Chief Executive of Nationwide Building Society, said:

The last year has taught many of us that ‘how’ we do our jobs is much more important than ‘where’ we do them from.  We have listened and learned, and we are now deciding to move forward, not back. We are putting our employees in control of where they work from, inviting them to ‘locate for their day’ depending on what they need to achieve. Our data suggests that working in a home environment encourages us to think more about the impact on others when making decisions. As a member-owned organisation, we encourage a focus on humanity, while embracing technology. We are also continuing to invest in some of our office space to foster social contact, collaboration and creativity.

Technical note

Ipsos interviewed 2208 people aged 16-75 online between Friday 8th - Tuesday 12th January 2021, and data have been weighted to the known profile of the UK population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.  For further details please contact [email protected].

The author(s)

  • Billie Ing Head of Trends

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