Londoners are working from home mainly to avoid the time and cost of travelling to the office, according to a study that shows most believe they are unlikely to return to five days in the office again.
Cuts to public transport and the high cost of fares act as a major deterrent to workers making daily trips to the office, while traffic jams and the soaring cost of petrol and diesel, which hit a fresh peak this week, make commuting by car unattractive, the survey found.
Only 10% of the workers said they thought they would return to the office full-time compared with 73% who told researchers from King’s College London that working from home at least one day a week would be a permanent feature of modern life.
Old and young respondents gave the same positive response to working from home, as did those who vote Labour and Conservative, though a larger number of Labour than Tory supporters was in favour of home working.
Tara Reich, an expert in human resource management at King’s College business school, said: “The opportunity to work from home has given many London workers a sense of control that they aren’t keen to give up.”
Among those who say they experienced positive impacts from working at home, avoiding the daily commute was seen as the top benefit by 80%, followed by the ability to manage home-social responsibilities on 66% – with 71% of women citing this as a factor compared with 60% of men.
The report is expected to alarm the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London executives, who need people to return to previous levels of commuting from next year, when the government plans to make the capital’s transport system self-financing.
Other cities, where workers are likely to take a similarly positive view of home working, are also likely to see the results as a blow to revitalising central shopping districts and plans by tram, bus and train operators to reinstate more frequent services.
Many employers have reported that staff prefer to work from Tuesday to Thursday in the office and have reported a resistance to a return to pre-pandemic levels of office working.
Amanda Jones, a lecturer in organisational behaviour at the business school, said: “Many more people now have experience of working remotely, while organisations and individuals have invested heavily in equipment and training, and those forced to work remotely during the lockdowns have developed remote-working strategies.
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“Consequently, many more people not only have the capacity to work remotely but consider it to be a normal, rather than exceptional and potentially stigmatising, practice.”
The only concern the respondents revealed in the survey was towards younger workers, who around half believed would miss out on career opportunities and vital work experience.
The survey of 2,001 people in work found that 56% believe senior management want staff to come into the workplace more often while only 16% said managers approved of home working.