Research recently launched and conducted by Owl Labs, polled 2000 business leaders* based in the UK, Germany, France, and the Nordics** shows that just 11% of business leaders expect their employees to return to the office full-time, indicating a more permanent shift to hybrid working. What’s more, the majority of European organizations (92%) are likely to explore progressive policies post-pandemic including introducing working from anywhere (42%), core working hours (39%), a four-day week (39%), and unlimited vacation (22%). Almost 9 in 10 (88%) of UK business leaders are keen on these policies. When considering why employers are permanently moving to a more flexible work model, profitability plays an important role. In fact, nearly two-thirds (62%) of European business leaders reported that hybrid working makes companies more profitable with Enterprise businesses (1000+ employees) the most likely to think so (73%) versus small and medium-sized companies (55%).
As businesses continue to adapt to working in a Covid-19 environment, over a third (39%) of European business leaders anticipate that Covid-19 will continue to impact the running of their business for up to six months. French business leaders are the most optimistic with one in five (20%) believing Covid-19 would only impact the running of their office for the next three months or less. However, the majority believe that remote and hybrid working has positively impacted their business, with the majority stating it had impacted employee wellbeing (52%) and business costs (50%) positively.
With a growing desire to support employees' partial return-to-office, one in four EU organizations (24%) are now planning to enforce ‘vaccine passports’ and only allow those who have been vaccinated into the office. Germany is the most cautious with 31% of business leaders insisting on Covid-19 vaccines, while 23% of business leaders in the UK, 21% in the Nordics, and 19% in France intend to enforce vaccines. Additionally, over a third (38%) of EU business leaders are considering providing onsite Covid-19 testing facilities to encourage employees to return to work, with French and German organizations most likely to provide onsite testing facilities at 42% and 43% respectively.
European organizations are already planning ahead to a post-pandemic work environment, with the majority of business leaders (63%) aiming to maintain the same amount of office space, even with the rise of hybrid work. Just 11% are planning to get rid of their offices entirely (rising to 14% in the Nordics). When it comes to hiring, one-third of EU organizations (32%) plan to hire employees who can work remotely, based on skill, rather than their proximity to an office. In a move that may not be welcomed by employees, 29% of business leaders plan to use productivity apps to monitor the activity of remote employees. This rises steeply in Germany, where 37% of business leaders plan on utilizing productivity and activity monitoring of remote employees, compared to just 22% of Nordic business leaders.
As businesses move to hybrid and flexible working, technology plays a crucial role in enabling this shift. As a result, the majority (93%) of European organizations are putting workplace policies and infrastructure in place to prepare for a post-pandemic workplace. This includes nearly half (42%) of European businesses investing in new tech and solutions to support a hybrid workforce. The UK leads the tech charge with 43% investing in communications tools (such as Slack, Zoom, and Meeting Owl conference cameras) compared to 28% in the Nordics, 36% in France, and 38% in Germany. The primary activities companies are carrying out to prepare their workplaces now and post-pandemic are:
Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs says, “It’s encouraging to see business leaders across Europe embrace hybrid work post-pandemic. As organizations have adapted to working remotely, they’ve seen the benefits. The ability to hire remote teams from anywhere, leverage new technologies whilst saving on costs. We know that technology will continue to play a key role in supporting this permanent shift to hybrid work, and businesses that will be successful will create the infrastructure and workplace policies that enable their employees to maintain high levels of creativity and collaboration, wherever they dial-in from.”
* Business Leaders refer to C-suite executives, heads of departments, HR managers, and general managers
**The Nordics refers to Sweden, Finland, Norway + Denmark