Staff don’t expect to return to office before June


Office workers across Europe do not expect to return to the workplace until at least the summer, according to a survey.

More than six in 10 (62%) office workers who currently work from home for at least one day a week think they will be back in the office around June 2021, research by AlphaWise at US bank Morgan Stanley found – much later than the April return date it previously expected.

Morgan Stanley said: “Despite vaccine rollouts and tighter lockdowns, this estimate has moved later in all countries surveyed since the last survey from December, by around 1.5 months, and now stands around June, on average. Clearly, this will not only impact office utilisation in 2021, but the leisure and retail property that depends upon the return to normal commuting patterns.”

The company surveyed 12,500 people across the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy – 2,500 in each country – at the end of January.

UK workers spent the highest proportion of the week working from home, spending an average of  3.1 days per week working remotely. This is compared with 2.5 days per week in Germany, which has recently extended its lockdown amid rising Covid-19 deaths and 1.8 days per week in Spain, which had the lowest home working levels among the countries examined.

Asked how many days they wanted to work from home in the future, UK workers said they wanted to spend an average of 2.4 days per week working remotely – also the highest proportion among the countries looked at. Staff in Italy wanted to work only 1.7 days per week from home.

However, staff did not think their employers would meet their expectations of home working, with UK workers suggesting their organisations would likely only allow them to work 1.7 days from home on average.

Many organisations are considering moving to a permanent remote working model after Covid-19. Software firm Salesforce this week said it would require only a small workforce to come into the office for four or five days per week, with around 65% of its employees expected to adopt the company’s “work from anywhere” strategy.

Chief people officer Brent Hyder said Salesforce would overhaul office layouts to increase collaboration space rather than having a “sea of desks”, and suggested that it would be unlikely to keep every office in every city it is currently in.

BP is planning to sell its headquarters in London, which would affect around 6,500 office staff in the UK; law firm Linklaters expects all staff to spend 20-50% of their time working from home; and Deloitte is planning to close four UK offices, telling the 500 staff based there to work remotely.

Morgan Stanley said: “WFH trends, together with higher unemployment, will continue to keep demand for office space at low levels in 2021, and office markets will continue to see pressure on rental levels and/or vacancy rates.”

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