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The WFH Reality Check

A survey of workers in the finance sector reveals employees are ignoring bosses' requests to return to the office

By Hannah Connolly

3 May 2023
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new report has revealed that just five per cent of employees view the traditional working week at the office as their ‘personal ideal’ and are ignoring employers’ requests to return to the office.

The study, carried out in collaboration between the Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF) and The London School of Economics and Political Science shows that expectations of a full workforce returning to office life post-pandemic have yet to be realised with many businesses continuing with some level of hybrid approach well into 2022, which is expected to carry on into this year and beyond.

In February 2022, 13 per cent of workers were opting for a hybrid approach, by May this had risen to 24 per cent. Yet, the percentage of those working entirely from home saw a decline, from 22 per cent to 14 per cent in the same period, the Office for National Statistics revealed.

With data pulled from a series of qualitative interviews of 100 individuals (68 identifying as women, 31 men and one as gender fluid), employed by leading companies in the UK, including Goldman Sachs, Rathbones, NatWest, UBS and others. Of those surveyed 28 per cent said they would prefer fully autonomous choice in where to work and when, representing 37 per cent of early career participants, 30 per cent mid-level and 20 per cent senior. Thirty-two per cent said they would prefer hybrid working with assigned days, representing 26 per cent at early career stage, 43 per cent at mid level and 25.5 per cent in senior roles. The remaining participants highlighted a desire to work abroad.

“I expect that those managers who are demanding their workers fulfill a rigid three, four or five day schedule, will lose women to their competitors who do not,” said Anna Lane, president and chief executive officer of Women in Banking and Finance.

“I expect that those managers who are demanding their workers fulfill a rigid three, four or five day schedule, will lose women to their competitors who do not.”

In a separate survey of Stack members, respondents said they would expect employers to accommodate some level of flexible working, with most saying they prefer a mix, especially for collaborative working and meetings.

One copywriter working in the fashion industry in France told The Stack World: “I find it so infantile and demeaning because it insinuates you cannot be trusted to work from home,” when asked how they felt about in-person office attendance mandates. Explaining that in order to work from home, they must give their employer two months notice for sign off.

Another respondent, also working in the creative industry said: “I have to go in (to work) on Mondays and I prefer to spend the rest of the week at home because it allows me to work on my schedule intuitively.”

Adding: “I’d expect everyone to accommodate working from home at least half of the week, because we travel so much and it adds to the stress of life, and this can make you hate your job sometimes, but I do need to see people because if I don’t go into the once I get lonely.”

A third member, a marketing consultant, also opted for the best of both worlds: “I like working from home because when I am really busy I’m actually more productive. I only go in for meetings really. I love having the option but I wouldn’t like to be told I have to go in a certain number of days per week, and I am not sure if that would be a role I would take moving forward.”

In the 1980s, fewer than two per cent of the UK’s population reported working from home full time, by 2017 that had risen to 4.7 per cent. In 2020, during Covid-19 stay-at-home orders, 43.1 per cent of the UK’s workforce were working entirely from home, according to data from the Home Office.

The Short Stack

A survey of workers in the finance sector reveals employees are ignoring bosses' requests to return. This story comes from the Second Edition of The Stack World Newspaper.

By Hannah Connolly

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