Are UK Bosses Right to Enforce a Return to Office Working?

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Monday, September 11, 2023

Could we have survived the pandemic without Zoom? That’s debatable, but most of us used this vital app to keep in touch with friends, host game nights, and, yes, even work.

So, it’s with some degree of sadness and confusion that Zoom recently decided that workers simply have to return to the office. They reasoned that a ‘structured hybrid approach’ is the most productive and ordered employees who live within 50 miles of an office should work in person at least twice a week.

For some, this will feel like a stab in the back, but it serves to demonstrate the recent trend in the UK of businesses demanding that employees return to the office (at least some of the time). But why are they doing this, and are they right? Should UK bosses be enforcing a return office working?

There are certainly drawbacks to working remotely. These can include:

  • Social isolation: Remote workers can feel isolated from their co-workers and managers. This can lead to decreased morale and productivity.
  • Lack of collaboration: It can be difficult to collaborate with co-workers when everyone is working remotely. It’s not the same as everyone being in the same building, and it’s easier to foster a sense of community and company culture when everyone is physically present.
  • Technology issues: Remote workers may experience technology issues, such as slow internet or computer problems. This can disrupt their work and lead to frustration. There are also cybersecurity threats that are unique to remote work.

However, the question is: are UK businesses and politicians right to be concerned with these potential negatives?

Many argue no, they’re not. Many studies show that working from home makes people more productive and happier. Despite some bosses’ misgivings, remote workers take fewer breaks and are sick far less than those that work in offices. They even work longer hours, with 40% working around an extra 48.5 minutes more. No wonder they’re more productive!

Bosses can complain all they want, but the truth is workers want to work at home, at least some of the time. 58% of employees prefer to work in at least a hybrid model, and they’re willing to leave their jobs over it; 21% who had quit their jobs in 2021 did so because of lack of flexible working hours or location.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to enforce a return to office working is up to each individual company, but they must take a good hard look at their reasons for doing so first, and they absolutely must be prepared for pushback at best or walkouts at worst.