In a survey of 2,000 UK adults, 35% said returning to office work will negatively affect their mental health and productivity. Credit: Shutterstock

Despite UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing that employers could bring staff back to their offices from 1 August, concerns over Covid-19 are keeping employees in financial services from returning to their work spaces, according to a research by chartered accountancy and consultancy firm Theta Financial Reporting.

The organisation has conducted a survey across 2,000 UK adults, examining how the UK workforce and business leaders feel about returning to work following the easing of the lockdown.

The research finds that 65% of British people do not feel comfortable commuting to work via public transport and think it will be one of the most stressful parts of their day, while 35%  say that going back to work in a traditional office environment will negatively affect their mental health, as well as their productivity.

London-based firms have kept the majority of their staff working from home; for example, only 800 out of the 6,000 London employees of Goldman Sachs have returned to the office, while just 16% of JP Morgan staff are back at its London base.

Nevertheless, 45% of business leaders are found to support the theory that the working environment is changing for the better because of the impact of the pandemic. However, 24% of British people surveyed state that their employer hasn’t explored any flexible working options to help them or their colleagues return to work.

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Other findings include that 26% of Brits say their company’s finance teams will not be returning to the office with other employees and will now work at home for the majority of the time, while 17% believe that their business will no longer be based in a permanent office when they go back to full-time work.

In times of trouble

Covid-19 is set to have a severe impact on the size of teams working in financial services, according to the survey, resulting in a number of redundancies. Indeed, 33% of Brits say that their company will return to the office with a smaller team, with staff responsible for more varied tasks. Moreover, the research finds that 29% of business leaders say they have streamlined their teams permanently because of the Covid-19 crisis as they discovered some roles were surplus to requirements.

However, thematic research by GlobalData on ‘the future of work’ states that “a prolonged decline in overall employment is unlikely, but society will have to adapt to significant structural changes”. The research indicates that the pandemic has provided companies with an opportunity to make significant changes to working environments and patterns, ranging from digitalising processes and reshaping supply chains to redesigning offices.

Nevertheless, employees are set to face new challenges as a global recession looms, with automation pushing enterprises to reduce their costs, resulting in increasing fears about job cuts. The polarisation of the labour force and the gig economy are two trends that are expected to shape the future of work.

GlobalData has created a thematic framework for looking at the future of work based on five indicators: visualisation, connectivity, automation, collaboration and interpretation. It highlights that companies that adopt the most advantageous technology in the aforementioned indicators will be the winners in the post-Covid landscape.