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Most employees want to continue working from home some of the time, study finds

PA Media logo PA Media 22/03/2021 By Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor
a person using a laptop computer: Almost eight out of 10 workers said they wanted to be in the office two days or less when the coronavirus pandemic is over, a new report has found (Joe Giddens/PA) © Provided by PA Media Almost eight out of 10 workers said they wanted to be in the office two days or less when the coronavirus pandemic is over, a new report has found (Joe Giddens/PA)

Less than one in 10 people who are working from home want to spend the majority of their time in the office when coronavirus restrictions lift.

A new study found that only 9% of those currently working from home want to be in the office four or five days a week.

Nearly eight out of 10 (78%) said they would prefer to be in the office two days a week or less, according to a new study.

And almost a third (31%) said they did not want to spend anytime in the office – saying their preference would be to have zero days there.

However, preliminary analysis of the study, which was carried out by academics at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and the University of Manchester, also found significant numbers said their health had worsened after working from home.

Two fifths (40%) believe their mental health has worsened, while 37% reported their physical health was not as good.

According to the report, 45% report increased mental fatigue and 40% increased stress since working from home, while 42% report more stiff shoulders, 41% stiff necks, 24% more numbness in arms, wrists or hands.

The study was carried out by the universities and the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), with the support of trade unions including Unite, Unison, the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

A total of 3,140 workers across the UK gave details of their experiences of working from home following the coronavirus pandemic – with the results published almost a year on from the initial lockdown.

In late 2019, just 5% of the UK workforce was home-based, but in April 2020, after the pandemic hit, 43.1% of workers were working from home.

Video: Here's what workers lose by working from home for long periods—or permanently (CNBC)

While this number declined to 25% in August last year, it rose again to more than 40% in early 2021, as countries across the UK again imposed tough restrictions to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Almost a third of workers (32%) taking part in the survey said they experienced a large increase in volumes of work, with 38% also reporting increased intensity and 32% greater pressure.

Meanwhile, about 30% said it was more difficult to meet targets while working from home, and want these to be relaxed.

Missing out on social interaction was the most common reason to want to return to the workplace, with this cited by 83% of people, with 45% also saying they would prefer their home life and their work life to be separate, while 29% said their workstation at home was inappropriate.

When asked why they wanted to continue working from home, 86% said they liked not having to travel to work, with 71% saying they had more flexibility, while 69% believe they are safer, with 63% saying they can meet targets just as easily while doing their job from home.

Professor Phil Taylor from Strathclyde University, one of the report’s authors, warned employers against adopting a blanket approach in the future.

He said: “There is a majority preference from workers of wanting to spend two days or less in the workplace. However, a blanket approach is inappropriate.

“There is also compelling evidence that WFH is not desirable for a significant minority. The reasons are many and complex, but include inadequate domestic workstation arrangements, space constraints, compromised work-life balance, gendered experiences of domestic and household burdens and loneliness and isolation.”

STUC general secretary, Roz Foyer, said: “This work reflects what we have been hearing from unions across Scotland. The experiences of working from home and attitudes toward future home working are very varied.

“Significant numbers of workers have experienced work intensification and stress over the past year, yet for many others the overall experience has been positive.”

She added: “A key conclusion is that many workers are positive about some degree of future home working, but this must be optional, flexible and only undertaken through negotiation.

“Millions of workers were not initially employed to work from home and have a right to resist imposed changes. There has never been a more important time for these workers to join a union.”

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