Despite instructions to stay at home, the pressure of presenteeism that drove workers into long hours at the office prior to the pandemic has remained persistent in the wake of Covid-19.

According to a new global study from the ADP Research Institute, many workers are feeling compelled to demonstrate availability to their employers. In the UK, 43 per cent reported feeling pressured to come into work at some point during the pandemic, despite prevailing advice for all non-essential staff to stay at home.

Meanwhile, the permanent migration of company equipment into employee’s kitchens, living rooms and personal space is feeding the “always on” culture as the physical and psychological boundaries between professional and private life have blurred. Rather than “working from home”, many feel they are “living at work”, according to TUC senior employment rights officer Tim Sharp.

And as working from home has flourished, so too has employee monitoring software.

“We think that is a matter of concern,” Mr Sharp said. “It can raise stress levels of workers who feel they are being constantly monitored.”

Not surprisingly, the TUC is pushing for employers to reach collective agreements with staff on these and other issues linked to the dramatic shift in the way workers go about their business.

This remains quite a grey area, as policies and legislation have yet to catch up with wholesale changes brought about at great speed by the pandemic. Indeed, even the seemingly clear-cut advice to “stay at home” – which has never altered in Scotland – has been guidance rather than law. Given some degree of leeway to determine who is “essential” and whether measures have been taken to ensure they can work safely in a communal setting, employers have been left with what are less than clear-cut boundaries.

Gillian MacLellan, a partner with international law firm CMS, said this goes some way towards explaining the findings from last week’s research from ADP.

Although the proportion who reported feeling pushed to be physically present in the workplace was highest at the start of the crisis, ADP nearly one in five workers in the UK continue to feel that way. This even though the percentage of organisations that have official flexible working arrangements, or those where senior management have stated that this is allowed, has jumped from 39% in January to 54% today.

Younger workers feel this pressure the most, with the proportion progressively trending downwards through older age bands. Mr Sharp said this was likely a reflection of the difference between those who have clout within an organisation and those in less assured positions.

“We know who the people in less secure work are,” he said. “It tends to be young people, it tends to be women, and it tends to be those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.”

ADP also found that even when senior management direct workers to stay home, some mid-level managers are making their own decisions. Across its global survey, 12% said individual line managers determine who can work flexibly.

Ms MacLellan said the speed of the shift to home working meant that most of these arrangements have not been officially codified. As a matter of practicality, companies were in no position to handle a flood of formal flexible working requests. She said those who have been denied such by their line manager should put their request in writing to senior management.

She added that some apparent discrepancies arise in companies with mixed workforces. In supermarkets, for example, both administrative staff and shop floor workers are essential, though only the latter strictly need be in the workplace. To be even-handed, some choose to have all staff coming in.

With so much ambiguity, Ms MacLellan said the best approach is for employers to take on the onus of setting and clarifying new operating procedures.

“For me, there are steps we can take before we go down the formal legislation route, because once you go for formal legislation, it will be very hard to find one size that fits all,” she said.

“A lot of employers are now thinking more seriously about how they are going to manage the long-term situation. We are definitely seeing a movement towards the realisation that this is not short-term.”