The number of professional services employees in the UK working from home has more than halved in the space of a year.
According to the latest government figures, 16.1% of those working for firms including legal and financial services were yet to return to the office in January.
That compares to 35% in January 2022, and signals a continuing change in culture as the effects of the Covid pandemic continue to wane.
The official government report surveyed 10,000 businesses across the UK on working patterns, including 1,422 firms in the professional, scientific and technical activities sector.
And while a further 49% of professional services firms were using a hybrid model – where workers spend some of the week in the office and some at home – more than 30 per cent had returned to the office full time.
Public speaking expert Gavin Brown, who runs Edinburgh-based Speak With Impact, said the data suggested people were moving en masse back to the office after a near three-year hiatus.
He said that would bring a range of challenges for those employees nervous about dealing face-to-face again, but also presented opportunities for those who master the new hybrid environment.
The figures were revealed in the Office for National Statistics’ Business Insights and Conditions Survey.
Gavin Brown, director of Speak With Impact, said: “Nearly three years after Covid struck, we are finally seeing a big move back to the office, especially for those in sectors like financial and legal services. Such a significant drop in home working in the space of a year shows the changing trend and something closer to what used to be called normal business.
“That will present challenges and opportunities for professional services firms. Some workers may need support in regaining confidence to deal face-to-face with others again, and those at the top level will need to brush up on their presentation skills again.
“But there are also many opportunities. While the return to the office is underway, many hybrid influences will remain, especially when it comes to pitching remotely and mixing physical and digital presentations.
“For those who get that right, there will be many opportunities to expand business and contacts, using the few positives from Covid in terms of technology while ramping up activity in person too.”