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Most Brits expect to be back in the office by end of summer

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Saleha Riaz
·3-min read
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People cross London Bridge backdropped by the Shard skyscraper as workers return to offices following the Easter holiday, in London, Tuesday April 6, 2021.  Virus lockdown restrictions are eased in England to allow far greater freedom outdoors. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)
People cross London Bridge backdropped by the Shard skyscraper as workers return to offices following the Easter holiday, in London, Tuesday April 6, 2021. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP

The majority of Brits expect to return to the office before the end of summer, according to a new survey, as the successful rollout of COVID-19 vaccines spurs hopes of a return to normality.

A survey of over 1,000 people carried out by Morgan Stanley (MS) found 57% of Brits believe they will be able to return to their workplaces by September at the latest, as lockdown restrictions around the country begin to ease and infection rates fall.

The findings chime with a recent Deloitte survey of CFOs, which found that two-thirds of finance leaders expect the bulk of their workforce to return to the office by September.

Watch: City of London expects most workers to return

Many workers have already begun to re-enter workplaces after the UK relaxed its stay at home guidance on March 29. JPMorgan (JPM) and Goldman Sachs (GS) are among the companies to have begun welcoming staff back.

Bloomberg has reported that about bout 15% of JPMorgan’s London staff — roughly 1,800 people — came into the office last week, up from about 10% at the end of December. The publication quoted another source as saying Goldman is expecting attendance to increase to about 20% of its roughly 6,000 City workers in the coming weeks.

Morgan Stanley found that 11% of UK office workers think they will head back to the office between October and December 2021, while 9% don't think it will happen this year. 6% never expect to return.

Chart: Morgan Stanley
Chart: Morgan Stanley

The average number of days workers spend at home among remains elevated amid tighter lockdowns in parts of Europe. Spain saw the lowest levels of working from home among office workers (1.6 days a week on average), while the UK had the highest (3.1). Germany saw the biggest rise — from 1.7 to 2.2 — as the country contended with a third wave of COVID-19 infections.

While most people are expecting a return to office life, many don't want to go back full time. Across Europe, Morgan Stanley found that most employees who have worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic would like to continue to do so at least part time going forward. Roughly 41% want the flexibility to work from home for one to two days a week, while 44% want to work three to four days from home. 11% would like to keep working from home full time.

READ MORE: Goldman Sachs to create hundreds of jobs in Birmingham with new office

Morgan Stanley said working from home was a medium-term headwind to sentiment and rental growth in the office sector.

"We still think real market rental value trajectory will be sideways at best, and that in weaker locations where supply is looser, rents will fall," analysts said.

A report last month found Britons want to keep working from home, even at the cost of career progression and company benefits.

A report earlier this year suggested that although the pandemic has normalised remote working, UK workers still face challenges when it comes to requesting flexibility. At present, the law states that employees can only request to work flexibly after 26 weeks of employment, with a limit of one request per 12-months.

“While many have hailed the pandemic as a driver for the adoption of flexible working practices, particularly around home working, the reality for many is that this is not the case,” said Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

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