Okta research finds that just one in four UK workers want to go back to the office full-time

Okta, Inc. (NASDAQ:OKTA), the leading independent provider of identity for the enterprise, has launched The New Workplace: Re-imagining Work After 2020 report, which highlights the technological and cultural challenges office workers have faced as well as the learnings businesses can take to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger.

The research, which was conducted by YouGov, surveyed 2,000+ office workers across the UK, also found stark differences about the impact our new way of work has had on London based workers compared to workers in the rest of the country.

Productivity at home

Okta’s research found that despite a radical shift in the way we work, only 31% of respondents said their productivity levels had taken a hit.

Of those that are thriving in the new work environment:

  • 62% of respondents said the increase in flexibility had helped them to focus more on work
  • 55% said their productivity levels were boosted due to the additional free time in their day
  • 44% said that they had fewer distractions at home

There have been technology challenges associated with this shift in the way we work. While 60% of respondents said they have been able to access the software that they need to carry out their day-to-day duties, some 24% of newly-remote workers said they couldn’t and were therefore unable to be productive from home at the beginning of the pandemic. 28% said their businesses had not equipped them with the necessary hardware, such as a laptop or a place to put it, in order to be able to work productively at home.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to think and act differently”, said Jesper Frederiksen, VP and GM EMEA. “Businesses have had to learn the hard way about the need to digitally transform to survive, and it is these learnings that will help us emerge from this crisis stronger.”

The culture shock

To work productively at home, having the right technology set-up is essential, but it’s also vital that working conditions and culture help employees get work done.

UK workers miss many elements of the traditional office environment including:

  • More than half (57%) say they miss having in-person conversations with their co-workers
  • 49% miss the relationships they have forged with those in the office
  • 10% are missing the benefits provided by their company, such as free food and snacks and fitness classes

Interestingly, there were stark differences between London based workers and those in the rest of the UK. Some 54% said they missed having a separate work and living environment compared to just 34% of those living in the Midlands, along with 34% in Wales and 40% of those based in Scotland.

“We all work differently and the results of our study speak to that. Some people perform better if they avoid their twice daily commute and head to work in their distraction-free home office. Others have less-ideal accommodation – particularly those that live in the city – and work better in a more traditional office environment where they can be surrounded by co-workers and take part in face-to-face meetings,” said Jesper Frederiksen, VP and GM EMEA. “This is why businesses should look into introducing a dynamic hybrid of office and remote work, which means they can re-evaluate the traditional office space while providing employees with comparable benefits, flexibility, and experiential work environments in the location that best fits their needs.”

The survey reflects that this is what workers want, as just 24% of UK respondents said they want to return to the office full-time and 35% saying they’d prefer a flexible arrangement where they can work from home on a part-time basis.

Security starts with trust

“Given this recent rise in cyber incidents since the COVID-19 pandemic began and the ever-pervasive privacy issues surrounding our digital identities, the significance of trust has never been more important” said Jesper Frederiksen, VP and GM EMEA. “Organisations now more than ever need to prove they are trustworthy to their employees in order to effectively facilitate this new way of working.”

In the UK, only a third (32%) of respondents said they were completely confident that the working from home online security measures implemented by their employer would keep them safe from cyber-attacks.

This level of preparedness varies between sectors; while 57% respondents working in the IT industry trusted that their employer was “completely prepared” from a security point of view, just a quarter of those in the retail and education sectors had a similar level of confidence.

Other key stats

  • Public vs Private Sector: 60% of employees in the public sector are typically required to work in an office five days a week, but only 29% of them would want to go back to this working routine. The good news is, it appears the public sector was well-prepared for a shift to remote working; 60% of employed staff had immediate access to the necessary hardware, with 67% having access to the required software.
    By comparison, 54% of private sector employees surveyed said they were equipped with the right hardware, and 59% with the necessary software.
  • Working Hours: Almost 40% of respondents said that despite their new freedom they were working the same hours as normal, with a further 20% working longer hours than they would in the office
  • Trust: 64% of UK respondents said that they think that the perception of employees not doing enough work from home has improved.
  • Virtual Meetings: The majority of UK respondents, many of whom are also adopting this technology to stay in touch with friends and family, said they were completely comfortable with virtual meetings, with just 5% saying they were not comfortable at all.

“Progressive companies have enabled home working for decades,” says Duncan Brown, Vice President of Enterprise Research at IDC. “But COVID-19 has now made homeworking a necessity for many companies that lacked the infrastructure and cultural preparations for such a rapid shift. Bosses are discovering the need to trust employees, and employees are repaying this trust with increased productivity. It’s a profound example of how this crisis has accelerated digital transformation in many companies. Most will never go back to an office-only work environment.”