Out of Office: Why 97% of public servants want long-term remote working

With 97% of public sector employees wanting to continue remote working after the Covid pandemic, we ask: what will the future of work look like?

Public sector employees want to continue some form of homeworking even post Covid, if given the option. That’s hardly a surprise given how much people have recalibrated their work-life balance in the past year of lockdowns and travel restrictions - but the strength of that preference is perhaps more revealing.

A working hours survey of public servants just published by the FDA union reveals that 97% of the 2,400 respondents said they’d like to continue working from home, even if that was no longer the default option. Beneath that headline figure, if we unpack the stats, it’s clear that hybrid working models are the way forward. Just 13% of that group want to work at home all the time - instead there’s a sliding scale of preferences:

  • 26% of respondents would like to work from home for 80% of the week

  • 32% would like to work from home for 60% of the week

  • 20% would like to work from home for 40% of the week

  • 9% would like to work from home for 20% of the week

It’s increasingly clear that flexibility and choice will be the watchwords of the future public sector working culture. After a year spent largely at home, a hard reset that demands everyone return to the office is going to be disruptive and badly received.

The FDA survey highlights how much public servants have been through in the past year (in line with workers across multiple sectors, of course). Despite dropping the commute from their daily lives, they’ve given even more to their roles, with 69% of those surveyed saying they’re working longer hours than before the pandemic.

The impact? 77% say working excess hours has adversely affected their general wellbeing at least some of the time. 

“The high level of engagement with our working hours survey shows that this is an issue of huge concern across the Civil Service, “ says The FDA’s Assistant General Secretary Lucille Thirlby. “The pandemic has clearly exacerbated problems in departments around the working of excessive hours, and it is deeply worrying that just over half of respondents feel that their mental wellbeing has suffered since March. Clearly departments must do more to ensure staff are properly supported while working remotely.”

It’s another stark reminder that the impact of the Covid pandemic extends way beyond the reported cases and positive test statistics. The fabric of our organisational cultures has been tested like never before. 

In 2021, leaders need to focus on rebuilding resilience and mental wellbeing in their teams as we edge our way out of the Covid era. The future of government office buildings is likely to be less about rows of packed desks and more about providing spaces to run focused collaborative activities, with the bulk of day-to-day deskwork happening remotely.

WFH on Demand


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