Research finds that just one in four UK workers want to go back to the office full-time…

Okta, Inc. the leading independent provider of identity for the enterprise, today launched The New Workplace: Re-imagining Work After 2020 report, which highlights the technological and cultural challenges office workers are facing. The report also includes learnings for businesses to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than before.

The research, which was conducted by YouGov, surveyed more than 2,000 office workers across the UK, also found stark differences between the impact this new way of working has had on London-based workers and workers throughout the rest of the country.

Productivity at home

Okta’s research found that despite a radical shift in the way we work, only 31% of respondents said their productivity levels had taken a hit. Of those that are thriving in the new work environment:

62% of respondents said the increase in flexibility had helped them to focus more on work

55% said their productivity levels were boosted due to the additional free time in their day

44% said that they had fewer distractions at home

There have been technology challenges associated with this shift in the way we work. While 60% of respondents said they have been able to access the software that they need to carry out their day-to-day duties, 24% of newly-remote workers said they couldn’t and were therefore unable to be productive from home at the beginning of the pandemic. 28% said their businesses had not equipped them with the necessary hardware, such as a laptop or a place to put it, in order to be able to work productively at home.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to think and act differently”, said Jesper Frederiksen, VP and GM of EMEA, Okta. “Businesses have had to learn the hard way about the need to digitally transform to survive, and it is these learnings that will help us emerge from this crisis stronger.”

Security starts with trust

In the UK, only a third (32%) of respondents said they were completely confident that the working from home online security measures implemented by their employer would keep them safe from cyber-attacks.

This level of preparedness varies between sectors; while 57% respondents working in the IT industry trusted that their employer was “completely prepared” from a security point of view, just a quarter of those in the retail and education sectors had a similar level of confidence.

“Threat actors are actively using COVID-19 social engineering themes to try to take advantage of remote workers, health concerns, stimulus payments, trusted brands, and more. Initially Proofpoint’s threat intelligence team were seeing about one campaign a day worldwide, they’re now observing 3-4 each day,” said Richard Davis, International Cybersecurity Strategist, Proofpoint. “The idea of a shifted security perimeter is now everyone’s reality. Many organisations were forced to quickly spin up remote work environments and security tools to enable business continuity during this time. And while we’ve seen a lot of rapid success, for many this short-term firefighting approach isn’t sustainable” said Jesper. “As businesses look to securely enable a long-term remote workforce, they need a future-proof security framework, keeping their people, their data, and their infrastructure safe. That’s where zero trust comes in.”

The culture shock

To work productively at home, having the right technology is essential, but working conditions and company culture also impact employees’ remote experiences. UK workers miss many elements of the traditional office environment including:

More than half (57%) say they miss having in-person conversations with their co-workers

49% miss the relationships they have forged with those in the office

10% are missing the benefits provided by their company, such as free food and snacks and fitness classes

Interestingly, there were stark differences between London based workers and those in the rest of the UK. Some 54% said they missed having a separate work and living environment compared to just 34% of those living in the Midlands, along with 34% in Wales and 40% of those based in Scotland.

“We all work differently and the results of our study speak to that. Some people perform better if they avoid their twice daily commute and head to work in their distraction-free home office,” said Jesper Frederiksen, VP and GM of EMEA, Okta. “This is why businesses should look into introducing a dynamic hybrid of office and remote work, which means they can re-evaluate the traditional office space while providing employees with comparable benefits, flexibility, and experiential work environments in the location that best fits their needs.”

The survey reflects that this is what workers want, as just 24% of UK respondents said they want to return to the office full-time and 35% saying they’d prefer a flexible arrangement where they can work from home on a part-time basis. Other key stats:

Public vs Private Sector:

60% of employees in the public sector are typically required to work in an office five days a week, but only 29% of them would want to go back to this working routine. The good news is, it appears the public sector was well-prepared for a shift to remote working; 60% of employed staff had immediate access to the necessary hardware, with 67% having access to the required software.

By comparison, 54% of private sector employees surveyed said they were equipped with the right hardware, and 59% with the necessary software.

Regional Differences: 

 There were stark differences between London-based workers and those in the rest of the UK. In London, 54% said they missed having a separate work and living environment compared to just 34% of those living in the Midlands, along with 34% in Wales and 40% of those based in Scotland.

Working Hours: 

Almost 40% of respondents said that despite their new freedom they were working the same hours as normal, with a further 20% working longer hours than they would in the office.


64% of UK respondents said that they think that the perception of employees not doing enough work from home has improved.

Virtual Meetings:

 The majority of UK respondents, many of whom are also adopting this technology to stay in touch with friends and family, said they were completely comfortable with virtual meetings, with just 5% saying they were not comfortable at all.

About Okta

Okta is the leading independent provider of identity for the enterprise. The Okta Identity Cloud enables organizations to securely connect the right people to the right technologies at the right time. With over 6,500 pre-built integrations to applications and infrastructure providers, Okta customers can easily and securely use the best technologies for their business. Over 7,950 organizations, including 20th Century Fox, JetBlue, Nordstrom, Slack, Teach for America and Twilio, trust Okta to help protect the identities of their workforces and customers.

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