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Third of office workers do not want to go back to offices, suggests SYSTRA survey

Mark Moran
26 June 2020


Nearly a third of workers never want to return to the office, a survey undertaken by consultant SYSTRA reveals.

Some 29% of office workers who are expecting to stay in the same or similar role no longer want to spend any time working from the office.

UK employees are expecting a more flexible way of working once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, with 45% saying they would like to change the times that they work, including their start/finish times or working their hours across fewer days, compared with before COVID-19.

Employees are expecting to be able to make these changes, with 59% believing their employer will allow the changes they want, and 40% prepared to change jobs if not allowed.

These results are from a representative survey of 1,500 adult UK residents undertaken by transport and research consultancy SYSTRA between 4-12 June 2020.

Key findings include:

  • 29% of office workers never want to return to the office, instead wanting to work from home. Of those that commute by rail or bus, this increases to 32%.
  • 37% of 5-day-a-week office workers want to return to the same pattern.
  • 55% of UK workers would like to work more flexibly, including changing their start/finish times or working their hours across fewer days, compared with before COVID-19.
  • 59% think it is likely their employer will let them make the changes they want to their work location or working patterns.
  • 40% think it is likely they will change jobs if their employer does not allow them to make the changes they want to.
  • Public transport operators will need to adapt and consider their ticketing products to meet new commuter behaviours, and the traditional peak/off-peak travel times may disappear, suggests SYSTRA. However, not everyone can or wants to adapt their working hours or location – those not office based are more likely to want to stay working at the same location, and many workers, including key workers, may have no flexibility over when or where they work.

Evelyn Robertson, SYSTRA’s Research Lead, said: “These findings suggest that travel behaviour may permanently be affected by the impact of Covid-19. It is imperative that transport operators adapt to ensure that passengers are still encouraged to use public transport, whilst not excluding those for whom flexible working is not an option. More research must be done to understand what passengers need to see in place to continue their more flexible public transport commute.”

Neill Birch, SYSTRA’s Director of Public Transport, says: “Public transport is well overdue a ticketing revolution. Operators will need to carefully consider how their ticketing products will appeal to a passenger base demanding more flexibility. Pricing will need to be carefully management to cover peaks which may be certain days of the week, not just times of the day.”

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