The last year has seen many businesses temporarily swap their office space for a remote set-up to adhere to social distancing measures. But how has this been working out for employees, and could businesses adjust to this new way of working on a permanent basis?

A survey of 2,000 British office workers conducted by Currys PC World in collaboration with Canon revealed people’s attitudes towards working remotely, as well as the highs and lows of working from home in a professional and personal sense.

The future of business is remote

  • 28% would like to work from home permanently in the future and 44% would like to split their time between home and the workplace
  • A quarter (25%) would want to work from the office full-time going forward
  • Over 55s are the most likely to want to work from home permanently, while 16-24 year olds favour the office the most

Thanks to business communication platforms and further digital advancements, it’s more possible than ever for businesses to work on a remote basis. And with many companies now having trialled a work-from-home set-up, is it possible this could lead to a long-term change in the way we work? With 72% of office workers stating they would like to work remotely at least part time in the future, and only 25% stating they want to work in an office full-time, it’s likely that many businesses will adopt a more flexible work arrangement.

Of course, attitudes vary between industries, with some better equipped to work from home than others. IT & Telecoms professionals, for example, have technology on their side, which could explain why they’re the most likely of any profession to want to work remotely on a permanent basis. On the other hand, office-based healthcare employees are the least likely to want to work remotely.

Further discrepancies in attitude can be found between age groups, with more over 55s (33%) wanting to work from home full-time than any other age group. This compares with just 20% of 16-24-year-olds, who are the most likely to want to work from an office full-time. 25-34-year-olds sit on the fence. They’re the most likely to want to split time between home and the office, and just shy of half (45%) say it would be their ideal set-up. Regionally speaking, workers in the South West are most in favour of working remotely (78%), while those in the East Midlands want to work in an office the most (30%).

Working from home can financially benefit workers

  • 35% of British workers say the best thing about working from home is saving money
  • The average annual cost of commuting in the UK is £796[1]
  • Brits spend an average of £270 a year on coffee and £278 on breakfast from cafes and restaurants[2]

Depending on how far you travel to work and whether you buy breakfast and lunch out, going to the workplace every day can become costly – meaning working from home could be financially beneficial for many. For example, if you live in the London commuter belt (including towns such as St Albans, Guildford, Tunbridge Wells and Chelmsford), travelling into the city for work can cost over £5,000 a year[3], over six times the national average of £796 for commuting. Add other expenses on top of this, including buying a coffee on the way into the office and breakfast or lunch every day, and it can seriously rack up. What’s more, if you have children, the average cost of sending a child under two to nursery in the UK is £6,800 a year[4].

With all this considered, the average individual could be saving £1,344[5] a year by not commuting or buying their breakfast and coffee out, and the average working couple with one nursery-aged child could be saving as much as approximately £8,144[6] per year by working from home. It’s no wonder 35% of British workers say the best thing about working from home is being able to save money.

Remote working offers a better work-life balance

  • 37% identify a better work-life balance as one of the best things about working from home
  • A quarter (26%) report blurred boundaries between work and home life
  • A fifth admit to taking longer breaks when working from home

With no commute to factor into the day and more flexibility in when and where you work, it’s easy to see why working remotely can have a positive impact on people’s work-life balance. In fact, nearly 2 in 5 say it’s their favourite thing about working from home.

This said, when there’s no physical office to leave at the end of the day, boundaries between your personal and work life can become blurred. For this reason, a quarter of respondents reported working longer hours at home than in the office, though 12% admitted to working shorter hours. Looking at industries, arts & culture professionals are the most likely to work longer hours when remote (34%), while more sales, marketing & media employees admit working shorter hours at home (17%) than any other industry.

Though working remotely gives employees more time to themselves, a third of workers miss the social aspect of the workplace, whether it be chit-chat between desks or after work drinks. 45-54 year olds are the biggest social butterflies, missing socialising at work more than any other age group. However, 16-24 year olds are the most likely to report feeling lonely when they’re working from home, with over 1 in 5 admitting to feeling this way.

Do the pros of remote working outweigh the cons?

  • 55% say they concentrate better when working remotely
  • A quarter of British office workers identify dressing casually as one of their favourite things about working from home
  • A third of British office workers identify a lack of in-person interaction as the thing they dislike the most about working from home

Whether workers favour a remote set-up or a formal workplace mainly boils down to personal preference, but there are pros and cons for each. For the majority of respondents (55%), they find it easier to focus when working from home than in an office environment that can be busy and noisy. For this reason, a third of workers find it easier to read when working remotely and 26% say they can complete technical tasks better.

Of course, personality and profession can impact what kind of environment people work better in. For example, 71% of legal professionals say they can concentrate better at home than in the office, compared with just 44% of those working in education. What’s more, architecture, engineering & building professionals are the most likely to say they can complete technical tasks better in the office than at home.

In terms of teamwork, it’s evident that virtual meetings just don’t cut it over good, old-fashioned, face-to-face interaction. Nearly half (46%) of British office workers feel they can collaborate better with others in the workplace, a third (34%) feel they communicate better and a further third (33%) feel meetings work better in a formal work setting.

[1] https://www.yourmoney.com/household-bills/british-workers-spend-492-days-of-their-lives-travelling-to-work/

[2] https://techtalk.currys.co.uk/kitchen-home/small-kitchen-appliances/britains-breakfast-habits/

[3] https://www.prweek.com/article/1586402/cost-london-pr-commute-outside-m25-16-per-cent-pay

[4] https://www.daynurseries.co.uk/advice/childcare-costs-how-much-do-you-pay-in-the-uk

[5] Avg. commute cost + avg. spend on breakfast and coffee

[6] Avg. commute cost + avg. spend on breakfast and coffee + avg. childcare costs