What’s important in the minds of UK workers? We have data for you on flexwork in its different forms, and how that’s changed since 2021.
Top 3 takeaways
- Those working fully remote dropped from 55.2% to 40.9% – but most have been doing it for years now
- Flexible schedules remains steady – and those working on flexible times have increasingly been doing so for years
- More employers than before have made overall flexwork a permanent feature
Remote work, once a novelty, became a necessity with the onset of the pandemic. That much is clear, and it was even predicted at the onset of the pandemic. In our New World of Work survey in August 2020, 71.1% said remote work and distributed teams would be a major paradigm shift moving forward.
And then it became a standard for a little while – until now. In our new survey report on the Great Discontent in 2023, recent data shows a decline in remote work among UK-based workers. In short: the percentage of respondents working remotely is down 14.3 points in a two-year span, from 55.2% in 2021 to 40.9% in 2023.
Does that mean remote work is going the way of the dinosaurs? Hardly. The prediction from 2020 is still absolutely spot on.
We see this when asking workers how long they’ve been working remotely – 29.6% of remote workers have been doing so for more than two years, up a full 20.6 percentage points from 9% in 2021.
This just means that those working remotely are increasingly doing so for long periods of time.
On the flip side: the percentage of workers who say they’ve only been working remotely for less than two years has gone down from 91% in 2021 to 70.4% now.
Meanwhile, the percentage of those working on flexible schedules is largely unchanged, from 55.2% in 2021 to 55.7% in 2023.
And when asked how long they’d been in that setup, the percentage of those saying they have been working in flexible schedules for more than two years is also largely unchanged in the UK – and is drastically different from the US where 46.5% of flexible workers had been doing so for more than two years now compared with just 21.9% in 2021.
Regardless of the above, there remains a long-term focus on overall flexibility in working time and location in employer management strategy, as 35.6% of employees say their employer has always had remote / hybrid work with an additional 23.7% saying it was introduced during the pandemic and is now a permanent strategy.
Meanwhile, 50.4% of employees say their employer has always allowed flexible schedules, with an additional 10.2% saying they introduced it during the pandemic and it’s now permanent.
It’s always interesting to look at the interesting parts: in this case, 29.7% say their employer introduced remote work during the pandemic and will likely return to on-location work. And 27% say the same for flexible schedules. Those are not insignificant numbers – they suggest many companies are pushing for return-to-office and set schedules.
What can you do?
1. Embrace flexibility
The steady demand for remote and flexible work options indicates that these aren’t passing fads, but fixtures of the modern workplace. Even as some employees return to the office (or attempt to), it’s crucial for employers to maintain flexible work policies.
This flexibility could be a deciding factor for talent considering whether to join or remain with your organization.
2. Communicate clearly
Employers who introduced remote or flexible work options during the pandemic need to communicate their plans clearly.
If the changes are permanent, let employees know. If not, it’s equally essential to inform employees about any transitions back to on-site work, providing sufficient notice and support for the change.
3. Re-evaluate and update policies
The landscape of work has changed significantly over the last couple of years. Now might be a good time for employers to re-evaluate and update their policies around remote work and flexible schedules.
Consider factors like productivity, employee well-being, and company culture when making these decisions, and ensure the updated policies are in the best interest of both the company and its employees.
Frequently asked questions
- How has the percentage of fully remote workers in the UK changed from 2021 to 2023?
- The percentage declined from 55.2% in 2021 to 40.9% in 2023.
- Is remote work declining overall in the UK?
- No. While there's been a decline in the overall percentage of those working remotely, remote workers have been doing so for long periods of time.
- How has the popularity of flexible schedules changed from 2021 to 2023?
- Flexible scheduling remained relatively stable, changing only slightly from 55.2% in 2021 to 55.7% in 2023.
- Are employers adopting flexwork permanently?
- Yes, 35.6% of employees mentioned that their employers always had a remote/hybrid work model, with an additional 23.7% saying it was introduced during the pandemic and is now permanent.
- What are the key recommendations for employers regarding flexwork?
- Employers are advised to embrace flexibility, communicate their plans clearly, and re-evaluate and update their policies on remote work and flexible schedules.