The first large-scale survey of the working habits of British office workers has been published by Atlas Cloud.

The research, which looks into the working habits of more than 3,000 office workers during the coronavirus pandemic, reveals that almost four-fifths (79%) of office workers, now based at home, say the lockdown has proven that they can work effectively from home.

However, more than half of office workers (57%) believe their company should be doing more to help them work productively from home.

Just two in five office workers said their employer has helped them to make adequate provisions to work from home long-term.

While almost a fifth (19%) of office-based staff said they need their company to act urgently to enable them to work productively from home during the lockdown.

A further 38% of workers said they need their company to invest in longer-term solutions so that they can continue to work from home if the lockdown is extended or if a second wave of infections was to occur.

Last week the British Health Minister Nadine Dorries said: “There is only one way we can ‘exit’ full lockdown and that is when we have a vaccine.”

The research has been collected by Atlas Cloud, an award-winning IT provider which delivers IT services on behalf of Experian, HS2, Magnox Ltd and The Environment Agency.

The research provides valuable insight into the working lives of Britain’s office workers as millions of them are now forced to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The average office worker said they are encountering 1.5 technological problems each while working from home.

The areas where office workers said they needed improvement in their home-working setup included:

  • A third of workers (34%) who said their work was being hampered by the poor performance of their home internet connection
  • Almost a quarter of workers (24%) complained of having to log in to too many separate software packages and apps while working from home
  • More than one in five workers (22%) said they could not access the computer files they need while working from home
  • Almost a fifth of workers (20%) said the quality of the laptop, desktop or tablet they were using to work on from home was negatively affecting their work productivity

The living room is the most common place for people to work from home cited by exactly a quarter of office workers.

Slightly less than a quarter of workers (24%) said they were working from a study or home office, while (19%) were working in their bedroom, 18% in the dining room and 8% in the kitchen. A handful of respondents said they were working in more unusual locations such as their child’s bedroom or shed.

More than half of office workers are working on a laptop or desktop supplied by their employer prior to the coronavirus pandemic (60%).

However, a quarter (25%) of workers are now working at home on personal laptops and desktops, while almost one in six (16%) are working on company laptops bought since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which has fuelled shortages of laptops in the UK, Europe and the US.

While the survey showed that 13% of office workers have flagged concerns about their access to computer files while working from home, more than half of those now working on personal devices (58%) are storing business information on those personal devices.

By storing business information on personal devices homeworkers are taking information away from the business they work for and potentially opening companies up to security breaches of information held on poorly protected personal devices, which may not be encrypted or even be behind a firewall.

Almost one in twelve of those surveyed (7%) said they have no password protection on the computer they are now using while working from home.

Pete Watson, CEO of Atlas Cloud, said: “We are living through the largest overnight change in British working habits since the outbreak of the Second World War.

“Our research shows that the majority of office workers believe they need more help from their employers to cope with the technological challenges of working from home. However, the research also shows that office workers may not be working from home as safely from a business and cyber security prospect as they could be.

“This should not at all be a blame game. Businesses and office workers face a national emergency of the kind we have never seen before and the aim for all of us is to help British businesses perform as well as they can do during this time.

“We anticipate that among the largest changes we’ll see to our working lives as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is a much larger proportion of Britain’s workforce working from home more often and a change in how British businesses manage their IT and handle business information.

“Many British businesses are run using a device-led IT model, where work and sensitive data is often held on devices, like laptops, tablets and smartphones themselves.

“While office workers have highlighted their difficulties in working from home British businesses are also telling us they face a trilemma of significant homeworking problems: including a global shortage of laptops, poor home broadband speeds fuelled by entire households connecting their devices at home and cyber criminals using the coronavirus to target businesses with sophisticated phishing and malware attacks.

“To solve the trilemma businesses should move away from device-led IT and towards server-led IT such as virtual or hosted desktops, where information is stored on on-premise servers or in the cloud.

“Server-led IT is important for ensuring business security during the switch to home-working as it means staff can work safely on any device and because it takes the control of business information out of the hands of individual employees working on individual devices, where the information is more vulnerable, and gives control back to the businesses who retain ownership of all their business information in the cloud.

“To adapt a well-known phrase – Britain needs to get home-working done.

“While there is a huge need for businesses to think and invest long-term now is the time for short-term solutions to solve the trilemma of problems facing office-based staff, many of whom have been turned into homeworkers overnight.

“It is better for Britain if service providers like ourselves deliver more immediate solutions and rapidly deploy remote working solutions to make as many businesses as safe and productive as possible in the short-term so that the British economy can perform the best it can in the weeks and months ahead.

“Business should then take stock and then start planning to invest in longer-term remote and home-working solutions in the coming weeks. So far, countries in Asia and Europe which are lifting their lockdown are only doing it in a very limited fashion and there are several experts warning of a second wave of infections which means that the shift to home-working is set to be sustained and prolonged.”