Friday 28 August 2020 9:02 am

Exclusive: Majority of companies will allow staff to work from home

The vast majority of UK companies will continue to give employees the choice to work from home, as the pandemic triggers a structural shift in working patterns, according to an exclusive survey for City A.M.  

The outbreak of coronavirus forced an overnight move to remote working, with the majority of firms closing their doors during lockdown. 

Read more: Coronavirus: Government to launch back-to-work campaign

YouGov survey data seen exclusively by City A.M., found just 34 per cent of firms had remained open over the course of the crisis.

This figure dropped significantly for professional services firms, with 15 per cent of accountancy firms and 21 per cent of legal firms keeping their premises open. 

Nearly a quarter of firms – 22 per cent – said their premises had closed during the outbreak and are yet to reopen them. This figure rose for financial services and accountancy firms, as 30 per cent are yet to head back into the office.

Of firms whose premises were closed but have since reopened, 77 per cent said staff could continue to work from home should they wish.

The figure rose to 86 per cent among financial services firms, and 82 per cent among accountants. The legal profession has proved to be the most flexible with 100 per cent of companies allowing employees to work from home. 

Read more: Eight out of 10 UK workers expect to return to the office this year

Linklaters became the first City law firm to publicly tell its lawyers they could spend up to half their time out of the office on a permanent basis.

The majority of Linklaters lawyers are still working from home but its office on Silk Street is open for staff that would like to use it with social distancing in place.

It follows a swathe of companies that have indicated a structural change in working patterns following months of remote working.

YouGov’s survey reveals that of firms that are yet to reopen, only three per cent will make it compulsory for staff to return to the office. Ninety two per cent of firms will adopt a more flexible approach, as seen in announcements over the past few weeks. 

The figure drops to 86 per cent of accountancy firms but rises to 100 per cent for both financial services and the legal profession. 

Read more: Staff at ETF provider Tabula call time on home working as it moves to Strand

The findings come after reports that the government is set to launch a back to work campaign, amid fears city centres could be decimated if there is a long-term shift to remote working. 

The hit to town and city centres was illustrated in stark terms yesterday as Pret A Manger confirmed nearly 3,000 job losses. 

The campaign will promote the advantages of returning to office and seek to reassure people about the safety measures being taken.

“There will be three main messages: showing people the workplace is a safe place to return to, highlighting the social benefits and the emotional case for going back to the office, and encouraging people to plan how they are going to go back so they feel confident about doing so,” a government source told the Telegraph.

Read more: Sir Graham Brady calls on ministers to get workers back to the office

Investment bank Goldman Sachs is laying on perks to persuade its staff to return to the office as it looks to bring workers back to the City.

The lender is offering perks including protective gear, free food and use of an on-site nursery for staff who choose to return to its City bases.