73% of London workers think we’re never returning to pre-Covid ways of working

A major study by King’s College London finds widespread support for the benefits of hybrid working.

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Six in 10 London workers work in a hybrid way and three in four think we’re never returning to the previous way of working where most people come into their workplace five or more days a week,  according to a major new study.

But the research, by King’s College London’s Policy Institute and Business School, finds most London employees still like their workplace. It’s avoiding the commute that is seen as the top benefit of working from home.

Among those who work in their London workplace at least once a week, three in five say they would react negatively if their employer tried to force them to come in more regularly, while there is very little support for paying people less for working from home– even those who have to go into their workplace every day of the week are more likely to oppose than support this idea.

On broader implications for the city, workers are split on whether working from home is a threat to jobs and the quality of life in the centre of London, but they are more likely than not to think it will harm younger people’s careers rather than those of older workers.

Researchers surveyed a representative sample of 2,015 London workers aged 16 and above. Of those in work at the time, 37% said they worked from home at least one day a week on average before the pandemic. Now roughly double this proportion – 75% – report doing so in the past four weeks. However,  a majority of 56% believe senior management at their work want more of their staff to come into the workplace more often, while 16% don’t think this is the case. Nevertheless, 50% think senior management themselves are always or often WFH.

Eight in 10 (79%) London workers who report WFH at least one day a week say it has had a positive impact for them, with large majorities of different groups feeling this way. Among those who say they’re experiencing positive impacts from WFH, avoiding commuting is seen as the top benefit (80%), followed by the ability to manage home/social responsibilities (66%) – with women (71%) more likely than men (60%) to cite this as a factor.

More than eight in 10 (84%) London workers say being able to WFH one or two days a week is better for people’s quality of life, while WFH also appears to provide a greater feeling of control. And while people are much less likely to report feeling connected to others when working from home (45%) versus from their London workplace (79%), they are more likely to say they generally feel connected to things that are important to them.

Meanwhile, two-thirds (65%) of London workers disagree that people who work from home don’t work as hard as those who commute to a workplace, compared with 16% who agree with this view. Most senior managers (57%) reject the idea that WFH means not working as hard, and even those who are in their workplace five or more days a week are slightly more likely to disagree (38%) than agree with this view (31%). Six in 10 (59%) London workers agree the media often exaggerates the negative impacts of working from home.

The study also found that 54% of London workers would work from home three days a week or more if they had a free choice, while 30% would prefer one or two days. 17% say they wouldn’t work from home at all if they could.

Mark Kleinman, professor of public policy at the Policy Institute, King’s College London, said: “The revolution in working practices kickstarted by Covid-19 has sparked intense debate – but it’s clear that London workers are mostly hugely positive about working from home, with four in five saying they’ve experienced benefits from doing so. This is partly down to practical changes to their routines, such as avoiding commuting and being able to better manage other responsibilities at home, but there are also less tangible factors at play, including a greater feeling of control and of being connected to things that really matter to them. It’s no surprise, then, that a large majority think we’ll never return to old ways of working.”


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