The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the transformation of work at an incredible pace. As many countries go through safety restrictions once again, companies around the world are realizing that there’s no turning back. Having tested work-at-home en masse, many employees want to retain this option to some degree into the future. Now, new JLL research has uncovered fresh insights into the shift to hybrid working and employee workplace preferences, that helps inform organizations on how to best address these new dynamics.
Throughout the crisis, employees have shown that, when supported by the right technology, they are able to work remotely and efficiently, without significant loss in productivity. They have also demonstrated their loyal engagement and commitment to their work and companies in highly challenging times.
In return, they are voicing new expectations that employers can no longer ignore. Surveying 2,000 employees in companies around the world, JLL researchers found that many want, or even expect, continued flexibility in how and where they work and expect their employers to support these preferences.
The new normal of hybrid working
Combining work-at-home with work-in-the-office, hybrid working has become the new normal and the preferred way of working. In fact, two-thirds of employees expect to be able to work from different locations when the pandemic recedes.
In addition, 50% of employees want the option of working either at the office or remotely, while approximately one quarter would prefer to remain in the office full-time. As a result, days allocated to remote work are expected to double from 1.2 days per week pre-pandemic to 2.4 days per week post-pandemic.
Most of this nomadic work will happen at home, with 72% of employees expressing a desire to continue working at home for an average of two days a week. Other alternative workplaces are also in the picture, with 43% expressing a desire to work in a coworking facility from time to time. A growing percentage of employees—from 30% pre-pandemic to 40% post-pandemic—want to work in alternative locations at least some of the time.
Expectations of employer support for flexible working
In addition to a growing appetite for new ways of working, employees are also voicing new expectations regarding the support they receive from their employer. Providing the right technology platforms is only the beginning.
Supporting HR policies also are expected. Three-quarters of employees are expecting their company to support their work at home, with one in three asking for a dedicated work-at-home allowance and coverage for electricity and internet expenses. One quarter expect their company to provide an ergonomic workstation at home, while 20% are expecting online experience services such live fitness classes, food delivery or remote medical consultations.
Don’t write off the office just yet
Despite the new popularity of remote work, it won’t satisfy all working needs and workstyles. In fact, some employees don’t even want to work remotely and nearly three-quarters of employees continue to want the option of coming to a physical office.
The office still matters, according to employees, because it continues to provide the best environment for certain work activities. In particular, 70% of employees say that the office environment is more conducive than working at home for team building, management support and carrying out complex tasks
Also important are human connections. Following the isolation—for some—of working at home, it’s not surprising that 60% of employees view the office as a place for better social interaction. Nearly half of employees are expecting socialization spaces to boost their experience in the office.
Much as working at home has provided certain benefits for employees, JLL’s October 2020 From productivity to human performance report found that 64% of millennials miss the office, and 80% of high performers have missed their office greatly during lockdown.
Creating the workplace experience that employees want
Inside the office, the workplace of the future will have to be more human-centric than ever. In the short term, employees expect limitations on face-to-face office interactions as the pandemic continues. One in three employees are expecting less density and some physical space separation in the workplace, digital interactions when possible, and no large in-person meetings for the time being.
In response to these new findings, companies need to lean into workforce preferences. JLL’s research shows that, while the office is preferred for collaboration and other complex activities, home is the preferred location for switching off after a hard task or concentrating on work. Third-party spaces are preferred for socialization and being inspired.
Clearly, providing a choice of workplace is important—not only in terms of remote working, but also with regard to the office itself. Offering the right workspace for the right kind of work is critical for productivity, with 57% of employees wanting a wider range of workspace options within the office. To meet these new workforce expectations, employers must accelerate the switch from traditional individual desks to offering a variety of on-demand spaces dedicated to collective needs.
In fact, 67% of employees would be willing to adopt a “hot-desk” environment of shared individual workspaces in exchange for more diverse office spaces and flexible work-from-home policies. In particular, employees say that spaces dedicated to heads-down, focused work are second only to socialization spaces among space options that would significantly boost the office experience.
Reimagining the human experience in the office
Flourishing in the future of work requires companies to reimagine what the human experience in the office should be. The war for talent will continue in many industries, bringing an urgent mandate to create workplaces that attract and retain talent and foster productivity.
In the wake of the pandemic, companies will need to decode the new purpose of the office—its function and potential value to employees and to the enterprise. Leading companies are already investing in workplace technologies that help them to better understand how their spaces are being utilized and adapt accordingly, and creating workplace strategies that ensure continuity and fluidity between in-office and remote work.
Many companies changed their business strategies to meet the challenges and opportunities of the pandemic shutdown—and they changed the ways and means of working, too. Now, organizations have a mandate to create new and innovative ecosystems of digital and physical workspaces structured to meet the evolving expectations of today’s talent.
Work and the workplace are ready to be shaped for the future.