More than three quarters of businesses are planning to return employees to their workplaces within the next three months if Government guidelines allow, a new survey by the employer’s group Ibec has found.
However, four out of every five respondent companies said they will operate a hybrid model of remote and onsite work to a degree when their offices reopen.
“Clarity from Government on the timing of graduated workplace reopening is now key for companies in order to reignite collaboration, culture and confidence in their workforce,” said Ibec CEO Danny McCoy.
“Government’s roadmap must be aligned with an ongoing review of reopening timelines that reflects the risk reduction that the vaccine programme is delivering.
“This means a potential earlier gradual return to workplaces than the previously flagged expected return time of September,” he said.
A total of 370 firms responded to the survey which was conducted between the last week of April and the first week of May.
The results show that after more than a year of having staff largely work from home, firms across the country are starting to prepare for a staggered return to the workplace in the coming weeks and months.
The survey found that a quarter of respondents are basing that return on the Government advice and the finalisation of the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccines.
A total of 29% of respondents said they are aiming to return in September with one in five expecting to be fully back in the workplace within the next three months.
But the study found that when the migration back to the office takes place, not everyone will be going there full time.
Just under three quarters of respondents have adopted some form of hybrid working over the past year.
One in every five had all employees working remotely while 4% had all employees working onsite.
But four out of five businesses expect to have a hybrid model into the future, with just under half expecting to stagger the presence of teams in the building for a period to ensure social distancing.
“15% of respondents will ask all staff to return onsite fully and 4% will keep their staff remote working on a full-time basis,” Mr McCoy said.
Nearly three quarters of those who took part in the poll said they anticipate that the use of hybrid working will grow over the next two to three years.
“While these trends signal the need for increased ambition in the delivery of necessary infrastructure such as remote working hubs, alignment with childcare facilities, and the National Broadband Plan, first and foremost Government must outline to organisations how and when they can begin efforts to gradually return their staff safely to the office,” Mr McCoy said.
Return to the office is also seen as an important factor for the recovery of businesses in the experience economy, like cafés, restaurants, etc that depend on the footfall from nearby offices.
However, the survey also found that when it comes to business travel, a half of those who responded plan to limit it for an initial period, with one in five saying they would do this indefinitely.
How productivity is viewed is also likely to change, with 55% of businesses saying they expect to place greater focus on employee output rather than presence into the future.