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Agency Wellbeing Census: Just 3% of UK agencies haven’t switched to remote or hybrid work


By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

September 29, 2022 | 7 min read

The Drum’s Agency Wellbeing Census reveals the state of hybrid working at agencies across Britain.


The Drum released the findings of its Agency Wellbeing Census this week / The Drum

Looking back, it’s hard to imagine why we put ourselves through it.

The queues for buses spent underneath a downpour. The hours spent stood on rush-hour trains watching summer expire. The evenings spent behind the wheel in traffic, eyes and knuckles tired.

Before the pandemic Londoners spent an average of 84 minutes a day on their way to and from work, while their neighbors in the south east of England took 75 minutes. Those minutes weren’t spent happily – according to a 2019 survey from Lloyds Banking Group and YouGov, workers in the agency capital of the UK and Europe were the unhappiest professional travelers in the country.

Covid offered most of us the chance to change how we begin our working days. But even as hybrid work schedules have developed, it's unclear whether an industry-wide status quo has emerged. And differences of opinion between employers and staff still exist, as revealed by a recent Microsoft study that found major differences in estimations of remote working productivity.

How many agencies have gone hybrid?

The Drum’s Agency Wellbeing Census, a survey of over 200 agencies across the country, attempted to surmise the state of hybrid and remote working.

According to our research, 84.7% of agencies surveyed have adopted a hybrid working approach to professional life, allowing staff to split their time between home and the office. The remaining businesses had either gone primarily remote (12.2%) or had stuck to their pre-pandemic, office-based setup (3%).

That suggests the vast majority of agencies in the UK operate entirely on hybrid work schedules, a huge change to have taken place in less than three years.

According to James Smith, managing director of The Kite Factory, tells The Drum his company’s weeks spent in the office are a thing of the past.

“The pandemic caught us all off guard, forcing us into remote working and for many, marking the end of the 5-day office workweek,” he says.

“Two and a half years on, we’ve found that hybrid working not only allows us to remain cautious around the unpredictability of Covid, it also establishes an efficient, creative and dynamic work environment, promoting productivity through flexible working and allowing for a more healthy work-life balance.”

Are agencies supporting staff with the costs of hybrid?

With energy costs for households higher this year, there’s a higher price to working from home than in 2021 and 2020. Depending on where they are in the country, some staff may find themselves returning to the office as a money-saving measure, since they'll be able to reduce their energy usage.

According to our survey, most agencies have been helping staff meet at least some of the costs of working at home. 78.7% of agencies have assisted with WFH costs since the beginning of the pandemic. In fact, we found that smaller agencies were likelier to help out.

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But the time spent traveling into the workplace for the time spent there isn’t yet considered part of ’work-time’, despite the fact many commuting agency staff could be using their time in traffic or waiting for the Tube to answer emails or respond to overnight issues.

89.8% of agencies told The Drum that they didn’t consider commuting time part of staff's working hours and therefore didn’t include it in their paid time for the company.

That's an issue for the few agencies mandating workers attend in person by default. A YouGov survey of British commuters back in April found almost 70% would agree to return to the office full-time if their employer covered the costs of doing so – were agencies to support staff through a time of rising personal costs they might make themselves more attractive career destinations.

Public transport isn’t the only means of getting to work, of course. 73.1% of agencies surveyed offer staff a cycle-to-work scheme, for example. But the company car appears to have died off as a corporate perk – just 9.6% of agencies offer one to employees. That’s in line with the rest of corporate Britain – the HMRC reported less than 900,000 people in the UK use a company car at all, a major fall on previous years.

Explore more of the findings from our Agency Wellbeing Census here.

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