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 has 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.”

Employers Set the Rules

U.K. businesses want their staff back in the office

Source: Locatee

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 is 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.

Worker shortages in the UK continue to intensify despite firms stepping up efforts to hire talent, according to new figures published today.

Research by Broadbean Technology, the world’s largest network of job boards, shows job applications in the UK fell 24 per cent between May and June of this year.

However, vaccines were up 10 per cent over the same period, illustrating the severe mismatch between the supply of and demand for workers.

The figures raise fresh concerns that inflationary pressures could mount as a result of firms increasing wages to attract candidates.

The ONS estimates underlying pay growth is between 3.2 and 4.4 per cent, meaning wages are rising in real terms.

Applicants per vacancy fell for the third consecutive month, said Broadbean.

The biggest contributor by far to the fall in applications was the hospitality and catering sector, down 78 per cent over the last month.

The drop in applicants for pub and restaurant jobs can be attributed to workers shifting into more stable employment and seeking jobs that will limit their exposure to deadly strains of the virus

As Alex Fourlis, managing director at Broadbean Technology, said: “The UK job market is becoming increasingly competitive as a shortage of talent continues to be exacerbated by the spikes in hiring that most businesses are reporting.”

“It’s unlikely that we’ll see any improvement on this situation as we enter the mid-summer months, with many job seekers now postponing their job search until September.”