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North East is region most open to post-pandemic office return, study suggests


Workers in the North East of England have emerged as the most amenable to a post-pandemic return to the office, or at least the least likely to quit if asked to return, with just 22 per cent saying they’d do so if refused the right to work from home.

The figure comes from research commissioned by global video interview platform Willo to gauge how working habits in the UK have changed since the first lockdown was introduced in 2020. It compares to around half (48 per cent) of Greater London workers who say they’d leave their job if bosses asked them to return to the office full time.

Overall, more than half of UK workers rejected the idea of working in an office again, according to the research.

It found that 56 per cent of people in the UK said lockdown had made them unlikely to consider working from an office, with older workers least likely to do so. Regionally, Wales has the highest number of workers unlikely to consider working from an office again (63 per cent), while six in 10 people in the South East of England also said they were unlikely to.

Meanwhile, around a third of workers nationally (32 per cent) said they’d quit their job if employers wouldn’t allow them to work from home. People under 45 were even more likely to do so (16–24-year-olds 44 per cent, 25–34-year-olds 52 per cent). Just 14 per cent of over 55s said they’d leave.

Around 40 per cent of respondents even said they’d retrain to do a job that enables them to work remotely.

Working from home became essential for the majority of the nation during Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, when the UK Government advised people to work from home even once restrictions eased. Only ‘key workers’ such as medical staff, emergency services, and shop workers were excepted.

Employers have increasingly called on staff to return to offices, with a separate survey conducted by Slack published earlier this year revealing 50 per cent of leaders want workforces back on site.

Around half of respondents to the Willo study, conducted by Opinion Matters, said they would now consider applying for a job that enables them to work from home (47 per cent), with the same number going a step further and considering roles that enable them to work from anywhere in the world (47 per cent).

Around four in 10 respondents also said they will never spend as much time commuting as they did before the pandemic (39 per cent), with those under 44-years-old again less likely to do so.

Euan Cameron, founder of Willo, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic drove the biggest change to working habits since the industrial revolution. It changed what we thought was possible when it comes to work, and for the better.

“Sectors that were previously tied to offices have been liberated, with staff enjoying increased flexibility and choice, and employers reaping the benefits of more appropriate premises and access to talent once off limits due to geography or time zone. It’s a win-win [which] provides access to a global talent pool rather than just regional.

“Nobody will forget the pain suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, but if there’s a silver lining it’s the acceleration of much-needed changes in the way we live and work, and they’re here to stay.”

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