"Freedom Day" has come and gone, and yet the small businesses and retail shops flanking London's retail district are still struggling as the number of white-collar workers flocking to the City and other parts of the city remains well below its pre-pandemic level. One reason is that British workers are digging in their heels and demanding a pay raise or some other form of compensation in exchange for returning to the office.
According to surveys from YouGov, and Locatee, office workers want pay raises equivalent to the cost of some annual railway season tickets to return to their desks full-time after the pandemic.
With COVID-19 restrictions leaving many offices empty, white-collar staff have spent 16 months mostly working from home. Just 17% now say they actively want a full-time return to the office, research for workplace analytics firm Locatee shows.
As rising wages for hourly workers fail to keep pace with inflation, just 17% of white collar workers say they would actively want a full-time return to the office. However, 43% told YouGov that a cash incentive might help change their minds. In London, the average worker who said cash would be a suitable incentive asked for £5,100 (just under $7K), which covers the annual cost of a railway ticket between London and the commuter town of Turnbridge Wells in Kent.
According to Bloomberg, the survey results "underscore the difficulties in engineering a post-pandemic 'new normal'. Most firms are already planning on recalling staff, but some of the big banks in the UK and Europe have been less eager than their American counterparts. The rise of the Delta variant has also prompted some large companies to reconsider their timeline.
"The appetite for remote working will remain high for the foreseeable future," said Thomas Kessler, CEO of Locatee, a purveyor of "workplace insights". “However, the importance of physical office space in underpinning company culture should not be underestimated, particularly after a year of reduced colleague interaction."
Nearly one-third of people presently looking for work now expect to work from home at least two days each week. Meanwhile, roughly 24% of companies are standing by their demands that workers return to the office full time. Younger workers are typically more eager to return to the office (where they're more likely to enjoy socializing with other younger workers). But for older workers with a family or children, the preferences are clear - and pretty soon, employers might be forced to settle for a 'hybrid' set up - whether they like it or not.