Will the energy crisis lure remote workers back to the office?

Will the energy crisis lure remote workers back to the office?

September 7, 2022
Articles, Channel, Digital Transformation, Sustainability, Trends

Quocirca’s forthcoming Future of Work 2025 survey found that 36% of respondents were working from home (WFH) and 56% would only choose the office as an occasional meeting point. But with energy costs set to rise by 80% in October, many remote workers are contemplating a return to the warm office.

On the flip side, employers who had been trying to encourage the workforce back to their desks are now being forced to reconsider their position.

The great resignation

Quocirca research throughout the COVID-19 pandemic showed that workers generally found home working a favourable arrangement. The majority stated that WFH had increased their overall performance. And many continued to do so post-pandemic – all or part of the time.

WFH became such an attractive option, it led to ‘the great resignation’. Employees moved jobs or left the workforce completely to maintain a level of benefits they found from WFH.

Quocirca’s Future of Work 2025 report shows that the most common reasons for this are ‘better offer elsewhere’ (30%), ‘mental well-being’ (28%) and ‘not feeling valued’ (25%). Older members of the workforce cite ‘burnout’ as a significant factor (38%).

The survey also reports the worrying fact that 67% of businesses expect to lose out on talent if they don’t offer flexible work options.

Government support

While Liz Truss, the new UK Prime Minister, may well make some sweeping decisions on a support package, much of the damage around rising energy costs has already been done.

Any resolution around bail outs will be short term – and they’re unlikely to cover all businesses. For now, business premises aren’t protected from increasing energy costs; only homes have the price cap in place.

Elsewhere, countries such as France have tightly capped price rises. Similarly, in Germany, a massive support package has already been put in place. So, energy costs are unlikely to be a consideration for workers deciding whether to work from home or office.

However, such support can only last for the short term. At some point in the future, such countries will have to make decisions already being made in the UK.

The looming winter of discontent

Those choosing WFH have already seen energy costs doubling. Projections show they could triple on top of this over winter.

For households with a single resident (or where everyone can be out of the premises for most of the day) being able to offset energy costs from the house to the office may start to look attractive.

But for those where the heating needs to be on all day (for example, where there are children and a stay-at-home parent), there will be little to be saved by moving back to the office.

To commute or not commute

However, there are other aspects at play here.

Workers living near the office can get there relatively cheaply by walking, cycling or using low-cost public transport (as is being promised by the Government in the UK). But where a car journey is needed, the current high price of fuel is a big consideration.

Whatever way people travel to work, the hassle of the commute and its impact on home life will weigh heavily.

Prioritising heating

Then there are the employers.

Without an energy price cap in place, they’re caught in the sights of what could well be massive cost increases. They might need to decide how much of their office space they want to heat.

It could lead to companies closing parts of their offices to focus heating on smaller areas. Or they might reduce office temperatures and request workers to wear extra layers of clothing. Employers might even restrict the number of days an employee is allowed into the office. Work rotas and hot desking will use up much less office space overall.

How will employees respond to this? Will it put the emphasis back on WFH?

Remote office working

One option is for organisations to embrace more shared office remote working. Here they incur a fixed recurring cost to cover energy as well as office space.

By placing the office environment closer to the employee, it could cut down commuting time and costs, and may well tempt reluctant workers back into an office environment.

What is clear is that these are highly uncertain times.

Around the globe there are geopolitical issues causing volatility in many markets – not just energy. Such volatility will increase the dynamics of the work environment. Organisations will need to build more resilient means for managing a diverse, decentralised and mobile workforce.

The effects on office technology vendors and MPS providers

In the print world, this decentralised workplace will require cloud-based print management with managed print services (MPS) contracts that cover supporting workers in the office, at home and anywhere else they choose to work from.

Both consumers and organisations will be looking for long-term energy savings. Sustainability at both hardware level and across the board will be key to ride through what is looking like a long-term energy issue.

Although the situation shouldn’t be seen as a major opportunity to drive revenues, existing sales and marketing processes should be adapted to show just how the technology vendor offerings are aiming to help organisations and individuals – even if it is in relatively small ways.

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