London Staff Want Big Pay Rises to Return to Office, Survey Says

London office workers want an average pay rise equivalent to the cost of some annual railway season tickets to return to their desks full-time after the pandemic, according to a survey.

With Covid-19 restrictions leaving many offices empty, white-collar staff have spent 16 months mostly working from home. Just 17% now say they actively want a full-time return to the office, research for workplace analytics firm Locatee shows.

However, cash would convince 43% of employees, according to the research, by YouGov Plc. In London that equates to an average of 5,100 pounds ($6,950) — virtually the same as an annual railway ticket between London and the commuter town of Tunbridge Wells, in Kent. The U.K. national average was 4,000 pounds, Locatee said.

The research underscored the difficulties in engineering a post-pandemic “new normal” for business. Ending legal coronavirus restrictions this week, amid a surge in infections in London and around the U.K., has not yet spurred a large-scale return.

Many firms want staff back and are already planning for a “hybrid” future that includes regular home-working in order to keep them on-side.

“The appetite for remote working will remain high for the foreseeable future,” Thomas Kessler, chief executive officer and founder of Locatee, said in a statement.

“However, the importance of physical office space in underpinning company culture should not be underestimated, particularly after a year of reduced colleague interaction.”

The survey also found that employers looking to recruit talent now need to consider workers’ new priorities.

Almost one-third of people looking for new jobs now expect to work from home at least two days each week, the Locatee responses showed. Although most still prioritize salary when looking for new jobs, 47% now cite flexible working as one of their top requirements.

Yet while staff are seen as valuing flexibility and remote work, 24% of companies want their employees back full-time. That may be welcomed by younger workers, with almost half of 18- to 24-year-olds worrying remote working could hinder their career progression.

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