Flexible working post lockdown could intensify competition to attract and retain staff

Nearly two-thirds of UK workers are willing to live up to an hour away from their office if they implement flexible working, which may intensify competition to attract and retain staff post-lockdown.

This is according to O2 Business report “The Flexible Future of Work” which found that 63 per cent of employees are willing to work an hour away from work if flexible working is introduced. Currently, 62 per cent of workers live within 30 minutes of their office.

Almost half (45 per cent) predict companies will change their approach to flexible working following the COVID-19 lockdown and 81 per cent expect to work at least one day a week from home.

While 40 per cent of workers live in the city, 41 per cent would be willing to move out to rural areas if flexible working is introduced.

Dr Heejung Chung, reader in sociology and social policy director at the University of Kent, said:

It will be difficult to go back to normal ways of working after lockdown, as we’ve now proven that most of us can work from home – despite many companies previously telling employees that it wouldn’t be possible.

The UK has a huge challenge with the geographic distribution of wealth, and this exaggerates the problem of overpopulation in cities. If people could work from wherever they want to, without any fear of career penalty, this would create a huge opportunity for everyone. Even though the findings highlight that people will be willing to live up to one hour away from work in the future – that’s still constrained by what people feel they currently need to do. If we completely opened this up with consistent flexible working, and we had the right digital infrastructure in place, that time could be significantly increased.

Katy Liddell, director business sales and service at O2, said

Whilst it’s difficult to fully gauge what the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be, “The Flexible Future of Work” shows us how the demand for flexible working and the role of technology in our working life is accelerating during lockdown, and how this might shape the future of the workforce. What’s clear is the ever-critical role connectivity will continue to play in our working lives going forward, wherever we are working from.

With more of us working flexibly than ever before, for most businesses, digital infrastructure has become more important than physical infrastructure. In the face of this, businesses must continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of their workforce to ensure they continue to attract and retain talent. At O2 Business, we remain committed to helping customers stay connected, particularly in these challenging times.

These results were gathered by O2 Business in partnership with ICM and YouGov by conducting a survey of 2,019 UK workers.