It’s been nearly a year since many UK office workers found themselves working from home. What’s changed in that time? Sodexo and Harris Interactive have been tracking employee sentiments on a range of topics during the course of the global pandemic.

It’s been nearly a year since many UK office workers found themselves swapping their desks for dining tables, the company of colleagues for pets, and grab-and-go lunches for last night’s leftovers.

So now WFH has become BAU, how are employees feeling?

Sodexo and Harris Interactive have been tracking employee sentiments on a range of topics during the course of the global pandemic, monitoring physical and mental wellbeing, productivity, and the benefits and drawbacks of remote working. Based on the global, multi-phase survey with waves in April, June and October 2020:

  • 56% feel positive (enthusiastic or relieved) about returning to their pre-pandemic workplace
  • 85% want the option to continue working remotely and at a higher frequency
  • 63% are concerned about their health & safety at the office or when they return to the office

Based on the latest dataset the WFH workforce is getting more comfortable with working in their non-traditional workspaces and are hoping to have the flexibility of remote work in the future. Deteriorating mental wellbeing is still an issue for employees, and health and safety concerns in relation to returning to the office are at an all-time high. Employees’ expectations of the types of workplace services they would like from their employer are also evolving.


Despite the Same Distance, Employee Engagement Rises

Even without consistent face-to-face interactions, employees are forging healthy working relationships virtually. Compared to June, employee engagement increased globally (70% in October vs 67% in June). However, it’s worth noting that employee engagement has dropped slightly since June in the UK, placing the region below the global average and other markets.

Employee Engagement Graph


Why do employees seem to be more connected now even though the majority are still not working together in the same space? This may be a result of employers’ intentional planning of employee engagement initiatives, a notable focus in thought leadership content about nurturing employee relationships. Research also showed team building and maintaining a strong company culture as essential to keeping people engaged and productive.

So, What Now? Leaders should continue investing in wellbeing support services for employees and in the in-office perks that mean the most to employees.


Remote Working: More Productive and ComfortableEmployees want to WFH

It’s no secret – many people like working from home and are fairly well-adjusted to the shift. What’s more, remote workers continue to see the benefits of working outside of their traditional, pre-pandemic workspaces.

Some WFH components that were cited as disadvantages in June are now either improving or being cited as non-issues.

Our research showed:

Sense of belonging to workplace community


Those who WFH are getting more comfortable, reporting a better working environment, and rating their ability to get the job done at home higher (48%) than at their normal place of work.


Improved wellbeing and productivity



Meal solutions for employees


We may have organisational leaders to thank for these elevated experiences as 53% of employees said their employers have implemented some type of solutions, such as personal concierge services or meals with subsidies, to improve WFH conditions.

So, What Now? The data shows 35% of UK workers feel neutral or “so-so” about returning to the office. Create a strategy for implementing policies and offering attractive benefits – such as food service programs, flexible workspaces and wellbeing programs – that shows employees the value of being back in the office.


Remote Work as a Mainstay

With these WFH advantages, it’s also no surprise that more people are reporting the desire to continue working remotely after the pandemic. However, workers in different regions are hoping to have the option for remote work at a much higher frequency than when asked in June – some now requesting this on a full-time basis.


Remote Work as a Mainstay


Dedicated Workspace

Despite the desire to continue remote work, half of home workers don’t have a proper space to work and 1 in 5 people globally report working in a space that is not meant for work. Research shows having a proper space to work has a significant impact on employees’ wellbeing, productivity and performance.

So, What Now?

We must plan to continue supporting people wherever they do work and ensure in-office workspaces are flexible.

If their home isn’t suitable to work, help employees find a third space or supply equipment that allows for a better, more productive workspace.

Lastly, worklife services should be available at the office, home and anywhere in between.



Reward and Worklife Benefits



Role of Food in the Return to the Office (Whenever That May Be)

According to our research, 50% of workers globally will visit their cafeteria/canteen at same rate as pre-pandemic. Of those who will go to the canteen less often, 30% plan to order food for delivery.

If they are eating in-office, what do employees want the most? What will keep them engaged, healthy and productive?

In our research, we found:

Employee Food Offers


Feelings on the Return to the Office


As you know, a significant number of people returned to the office to work in the latter half of 2020. Those who did had an overall positive experience with 65% describing the experience as “good as they expected” and 23% saying it was “better than they expected.”

So, What Now? The return to the office is another opportunity to show employees that you care and that you’ve been hard at work ensuring their new workspace will fit their changing needs.

There is an important role for food to play in creating attractive, collaborative workplaces. It’s time to promote tasty, healthy and on-trend food services – everything from home and office meal delivery to click & collect and mobile ordering. As an added benefit, consider free on-site food and drinks (e.g., free coffee or snacks) as this was cited as the 2nd most desired employee benefit.


Let’s Do This

As we all continue to go through the motions, we’re also eagerly waiting to see what’s on the horizon for the future of work. There’s plenty we can do now to continue supporting our teams and propel our businesses forward despite the uncertainty of what the headlines will say tomorrow.

Here’s a quick recap of action items to consider:

  • Invest in wellbeing support services for employees
  • Ensure worklife services are available and beneficial to employees regardless of where they work
  • Offer attractive benefits, such as great food, free beverages and/or flexible workspaces
  • Use food to create more attractive, collaborative workplaces, and make digital ordering and delivery available
  • Prepare to implement remote work options post-pandemic
  • Supply equipment that allows for a better, more productive workspaces at home

Sodexo’s Vital Spaces empowers organisations to transform their workplaces and plan for shifting futures.

Read more about Vital Spaces and see how together, we can optimise experiences and spaces with services that enable productivity and connection wherever your teams do work. 


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March 10, 2021