18 July 2023 – While during the pandemic remote working was a necessity, many companies want their workers back in the office. But employees would rather quit then return to the office full-time.
Hybrid working was the only option during the pandemic, when the government ordered people to work from home where possible. When restrictions were lifted, many companies expected their employees to return to the office.
Official figures show that the shift back to office work has happened for many people. In 2022, more than 40% of UK workers were working hybrid. Now, it’s only 25%.
Big companies such as Twitter, Google and JP Morgan have led the way, with their senior leaders demanding that staff return to the offices.
But employees value the benefits they gained from hybrid working and are less keen to return, with many saying they would rather quit than returning to the office full time.
Employers Are At Odds With Employees’ Demands
The recent rise in business rates has further increased costs for many businesses. Paying for an office that is hardly used, has prompted many companies to ensure workers return to the office.
However, new research by The British Business Excellence Awards has shown that this is at odds with what employees want. They surveyed over 2,000 UK workers to gain an insight into employment trends.
The survey results showed that 64% of UK employees would rather quit their job than return to the office full-time. This is a threat small businesses should not ignore.
Recent research has shown that the trend of career cushioning is riding high, with 37% of UK workers keeping an eye on the job market in case they need to move.
While job security is the main reason workers are looking out for other jobs, many will change jobs, if hybrid working is abandoned by their current employer.
Because flexible working, which includes working from home, improves the work/life balance for many people, it is no surprise workers want to keep it. And studies have shown that it also improves productivity.
The benefits of hybrid work are not just economic – studies show that it also improves employee productivity. A comprehensive study of 16,000 workers by Stanford University, indicates that remote workers tend to be more productive than their in-office counterparts.Ben Marks, Founder and Executive Director of the #WorkAnywhere Campaign
Especially younger people are keen to keep hybrid working, many of whom have started working during the COVID pandemic.
With so many workers prepared to leave if they are forced back to the office, small businesses should consider carefully what approach to take. The UK is currently experiencing a labour shortage.
According to figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), between April and June 2023 there were 1,034,000 job vacancies in the UK. Retaining and recruiting staff has been an issue for UK businesses for a while.
Offering perks such as hybrid working will make small businesses more attractive. This means it will be easier to keep existing staff on board and get new talent.
Are Coworking Spaces The Answer?
New analysis by business comparison website Bionic has shown that on average it costs £2,969 per month to rent an office in the UK. In London, the average monthly rent is a staggering £11,936.
So it’s no surprise that many businesses want to ensure these expensive offices are used in the most cost-effective way. But if staff are reluctant to come back to the office full-time, this approach could cause other costly issues.
If staff would rather quit than return to the office, forcing them could result in increased recruitment and training costs.
Many small businesses turn to coworking spaces as a way out of this dilemma. With some providers now offering flexible working options, small businesses can save money by opting for a coworking space.
Bills such as for energy and maintenance fall away when using a coworking space. This means a small business can reduce its outgoings by a lot.
While initially mostly used by freelancers and microbusinesses, coworking spaces have become a viable option for many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). And the industry has recognised this.
Global market intelligence agency Mintel predicts that the number of coworking providers will increase by 52% by 2027 compared to 2022. This suggests that the trend is moving away from rented offices and towards coworking spaces.
Coworking will inevitably trickle its way through the economy. Whether that leads to more members or more sites, I think the industry is really in a period of rebirth.Tobias Batkin, Co-Founder of Work + Play
Many coworking space providers also offer other benefits and perks, such as free tea and coffee or free yoga classes. These can increase staff wellbeing without small businesses having to shoulder the cost.
While coworking spaces won’t work for every business, it can be a way for small businesses to offer hybrid working without paying huge amounts for an underused office space.