London staff want big pay rises to return to office: Poll

LONDON • London office workers want an average pay rise equivalent to the cost of some annual railway season tickets to return to their desks full time after the pandemic, according to a survey.

With Covid-19 restrictions leaving many offices empty, white-collar staff have spent 16 months mostly working from home. Just 17 per cent now say they actively want a full-time return to the office, research for workplace analytics firm Locatee shows.

However, cash would convince 43 per cent of employees, according to the research by YouGov. In London, that equates to an average of £5,100 (S$9,500) - virtually the same as an annual railway ticket between London and the commuter town of Tunbridge Wells in Kent. The British national average was £4,000, Locatee said.

The research underscored the difficulties in engineering a post-pandemic "new normal" for businesses. Ending legal coronavirus restrictions this week, amid a surge in infections in London and around Britain, has not yet spurred a large-scale return.

Many firms want staff back and are already planning for a "hybrid" future that includes regular home-working in order to keep them onside.

"The appetite for remote working will remain high for the foreseeable future," Mr Thomas Kessler, chief executive officer and founder of Locatee, said in a statement.

"However, the importance of physical office space in underpinning company culture should not be underestimated, particularly after a year of reduced colleague interaction."

The survey also found that employers looking to recruit talent now need to consider workers' new priorities.

Almost one-third of people looking for new jobs now expect to work from home at least two days each week, the Locatee responses showed. Although most still prioritise salary when looking for new jobs, 47 per cent now cite flexible working as one of their top requirements.

Yet while staff are seen as valuing flexibility and remote work, 24 per cent of companies want their employees back full time.

That may be welcomed by younger workers, with almost half of 18-to 24-year-olds worrying that remote working could hinder their career progression.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2021, with the headline 'London staff want big pay rises to return to office: Poll'. Subscribe