Published Monday, 6th December 2021

There have been significant changes and sustained trends in the way people work, and continue to work, in the South East since the start of the pandemic, according to a council-commissioned study.

A survey of 500 people, carried out by Google Surveys and commissioned by employment portal Reigate & Banstead Works, explored changes in routines for commuting and new-found opportunities for remote and flexible working.

It found that pre-Covid, 46.5% of people commuted to work five days a week, with the finance sector seeing the highest proportion of people (two thirds) working in this way.

By contrast, 18 months on from the start of the pandemic, only a quarter of respondents, 27.2%, now commute five days a week demonstrating there is a clear decline, 41%, in the traditional five-day commute.

Has Covid-19 changed the way we work?

The reduction in numbers of people commuting has seen some employees move to working remotely every day, from 19.23% before the pandemic to 27.2% during the pandemic, an increase of 42%. Finance workers in the South East have again seen the biggest change with nearly 50% of people now working remotely every day, from 12.5% to 47.7%.

There has also been a sharp increase in the numbers of employers now offering hybrid working patterns evidenced by a 142% increase in people working from home for one or two days a week, from 9.28% pre-Covid to 22.45% during the pandemic.

The significant shift in working patterns is backed up by more than half of survey respondents (56%) reporting that their employers are open to offering ongoing flexible working and working from home, suggesting that Covid-19 has created an environment in which many more employers have discovered a new openness to alternate ways of working. The finance sector saw 81.3% of people confirm that their employers are now open to the concept of flexible working.

Employers in the borough of Reigate & Banstead believe a flexible approach to working is not only good for employees and customers but has also seen them well positioned to respond to the pandemic.

Kate Brown, Head of Organisational Development & HR, Reigate & Banstead Borough Council said: “We’ve had flexible working practices for many years, allowing staff to create a great work/life balance whilst delivering the best service to our residents. This includes flexible working patterns and for desk-based staff, flexibility about where they work. When Covid hit, this made it easy for desk-based staff, used to working from their laptops, to make the practical transition to remote working during lockdown.”

Sarah Brown, Head of People, SES Water adds: “We recognise the many benefits of having the ability to work more flexibly and are driven to look after the work/life balance of our people and the way they work. We nurture a culture that encourages innovation and have created a working environment where people thrive and strive to do a great job for each other and our customers.”

Adam Wooldridge, Director of the recruitment experts Volt International, believes that it is important employers continue to listen to the feedback from the employee market to better understand what people see as positive outcomes from the shift in ways of working:

“The consistent feedback we receive is that time saved on commuting has improved people’s quality of life, as they spend more time with family and eliminate commuter fatigue.”

Not surprisingly, industries, such as healthcare, education, and hospitality, have had less prevalence of flexible working, born out of necessity for people to be present on site. 75% of respondents surveyed about returning to the workplace after time away or furlough, gave no active concerns about returning during Covid. However, 25% were worried, meaning the way in which employers cater for their employees’ health & safety requirements and mental wellbeing will be a vital part of ensuring a smoother transition to new ways of working.

During Covid, the traditional workplace has presented many challenges and will likely continue to do so over the coming months and years; but with it, appear opportunities to evolve working practices and potentially enhance employee satisfaction in the long-term.

While initially a response to the pandemic, it appears as though Covid-19 will continue to shape the new working world.

To read the full report ‘Has Covid-19 changed the way we work forever?’ visit: