WFHForever: The workplace revolution

There’s a revolution going on, and it started with a virus.

As the first wave of Covid 19 crashed across the UK, and large swathes of the workforce moved to remote working, WFH became a familiar meme to millions. According to the Office for National Statistics, at the peak of the first wave, almost half of all workers were working from home at least one day a week. In the communications, information and tech industries, WFH numbers were close to 70%. Almost overnight, long-established work routines were replaced by Zoom calls, casual dress, flexi-hours, and the commute from bedroom to kitchen. For many workers, this was ‘working 2.0’ and they liked what they found.

Now, as the pandemic recedes into memory, businesses are playing catch-up at a frenzied pace and the demand for workers to return to the office is being led by government. However, this clarion call is falling flat with ‘Worker 2.0’. Recent Google mobility data indicates that the UK’s daily commuter numbers are still more than 20% below pre-pandemic levels, and a global study reveals that among industrialised nations, the UK has the highest percentage of workers (16%) who would sooner quit their job than return to the old nine to five way of working.

These realisations should come as no surprise to keen observers of the UK labour market. In an era where job vacancies have outstripped job seekers for the first time, workers know they can get what they want, and our own research reports an expanding re-invention of work by workers. From the production line to the home office, employees are demanding more workplace flexibility, fair wages and greater autonomy as a norm, effectively redefining what is “essential” for work and for workers. With deeper analysis revealing that 45% of employees want flexible hours, 35% want hybrid working, and 49% would move to an organisation that gives them better wellbeing, we can be sure that the macro effects of WFH are not temporary and that WFHForever signals permanent change.

What does this mean for employers? It means forward thinking organisations must offer hybrid working to their employees if they are to retain and recruit top candidates. Allowing employees to choose where they work and when they work has become a gamechanger in the battle to secure good talent, with some of the biggest organisations already offering this flexibility to their entire global workforce. In reverse, it should be expected that companies who prefer the old status quo will risk losing out in the future hunt for best workers. This is especially pertinent for the IT/Tech sector where our recent ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey discovered 49% of organisations expect to enlarge their workforce in Q3 2022 – the joint highest hiring outlook for all sectors in the UK – and competition for top employees is likely to be fierce.

As with many revolutions, a sudden flashpoint has revealed that what seemed set in stone was truly built from sand. Covid 19 has shown that UK workers crave change, and the old way of working is no longer working. Companies that embrace this new world of work and give workers what they want may enjoy the greatest opportunities for success as the post-pandemic recovery continues to accelerate.

Learn more about the future of UK employment and the trends we foresee that may affect your organisation. Get ahead and stay in front. Download your free copy of our Great Realisation whitepaper now.