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A quarter of employees would rather quit than be forced back to the office

A quarter of employees who currently work from home part of the week say they would quit their job rather than return to the office full-time, according to a major new global study.

Work from Home 2

The research, from the School of Politics and Economics at King’s and based on data from more than 30,000 full-time workers across 27 countries, also found that employees around the world see working from home for two to three days as being as valuable as earning five percent more pay.

The study authors say the recent move to working from home is a more dramatic change to working arrangements than the industrial revolution in Great Britain or the shift many countries underwent from a manufacturing to a service economy.

One of the researchers Dr Cevat Giray Aksoy, from King’s and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), said: “The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a huge, sudden uptake in working from home, as individuals and organisations responded to contagion fears and government restrictions on commercial and social activities."

No other episode in modern history involved such a pronounced and widespread shift in working arrangements in such a compressed time frame. – Dr Cevat Giray Aksoy

"The broader economic and social consequences will unfold for many years to come but in this study, we look beyond the immediate impact of the shift to working from home and look at the longer-term trends emerging as well as looking even further ahead, at the possible longer-term consequences,” Dr Aksoy added.

The study, which collected two rounds of data, firstly in the summer of 2021 and secondly in early 2022, reveals how attitudes to working from home are similar in many countries around the world. It also found there have been lasting changes both to the way people engage with work and the attitudes of businesses to accommodating remote working.

The study also cautions of the longer-term challenges facing cities including a stark drop to local tax bases, outmigration and a “downward spiral in urban amenities”.

Other findings include:

  • People work from home an average of 1.5 days a week, although there are wide variances across the world.
  • In post-pandemic planning, employers underestimated by more than half the amount of time people would want to work from home once restrictions were lifted.
  • Women, people with children and those with longer commutes particularly value the option to work from home.
  • Most employees were favourably surprised by their WFH productivity during the pandemic.
  • Planned WFH levels rose with the cumulative stringency of government-mandated lockdowns during the pandemic.

The report, co-authored by Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven J. Davis, Mathias Dolls and Pablo Zarate, is published in the journal Brookings Paper on Economic Activity. You can read it in full here.

In this story

Cevat Giray Aksoy

Cevat Giray Aksoy

Lecturer in Economics