After a year and a half of adjusting to telecommuting, adapting to new remote communication and collaboration tools, and rethinking the modern office’s place in the world, some businesses are beginning to reopen their doors and welcome employees back in. However, the modern employee has changed over the past eighteen months. Their needs and expectations have evolved during their time working remotely and many aren’t sold on the idea of returning to the office full-time.
Instead of reverting back to some semblance of “business as usual,” companies of all shapes and sizes are quickly realizing that in order to provide their employees with the support they need to succeed moving forward, “business as usual” is going to have to change.
Enter: hybrid work.
More inclusive than a compromise, hybrid work is the flexible middle ground where fully in-person and fully remote business practices meet. It involves employees splitting their time between their home workspaces and the office, as well as a deeper integration of tech tools into company headquarters in order to transform the office into a place that actively supports hybrid collaboration.
In preparation for this hybrid return to office, we surveyed 500 full-time workers in August 2021 based in the United States between the ages of 25 and 54 to ask them how they feel about returning to the office and moving forward with a hybrid work model. We wanted to learn exactly how companies are adapting their work models, what people need from their workplace, and how organizations can best support their teams.
Spoiler alert, all signs point to hybrid work being here to stay. Read on for the key findings from our hybrid work survey.
As the return to office efforts ramp up, it’s becoming clearer just how many companies are rushing to return to the office and how many are providing their teams with flexible work options.
Data from the survey showed that 55% of workers are currently working in-person five or more days per week, meaning that over half of the population is required to or choosing to work from an office or other workplace.
It isn’t just the schedule of employees that has grown more flexible since the pandemic, but the mindsets of companies have shifted as well. Since the onset of COVD-19, companies have had to take a long hard look in the mirror in order to determine the best path forward for themselves and their employees. Will they adopt more flexible policies to meet the new needs of their workforce? How much are organizations willing to change in order to retain their employees? As it turns out, nearly half (42%) of workers say that their companies have changed their employee location requirements due to the pandemic— the first sign that they are open to hybrid or remote work.
An additional 36% of workers say that their companies have completely embraced hybrid work and 6% say that their employer has shifted to fully remote work. While these results are promising signs that point to a more flexible future, over 1/3 (35%) of workers say that their companies are still requiring them to work in-person full-time.
While this shift to hybrid and remote work feels like a win for employees on the lookout for companies offering more flexible workstyles to their teams, it’s also important to acknowledge that not all companies are as willing to participate in an open dialogue with their employees.
Changing workplace policies to allow for hybrid and remote work doesn’t happen after one simple conversation. Instead, it’s the result of a healthy employee-employer relationship built on mutual respect and fueled by clear conversation. For those workers who feel as though the reality of their lives and responsibilities go unacknowledged by the company they work for, they will have a more difficult time communicating their needs.
The good news is, more than half of workers (56%) feel as though their companies are listening to their preferences when developing hybrid and remote workplace policies. On the other hand, 21% say that their companies are not listening to employee preference. If you fall into that last camp, here is How to Ask to Work Remotely: A Comprehensive Guide.
As organizations around the world contemplate their return to office strategy, “vaccine passport” has been the phrase on the tip of everyone’s tongues. It is often the first question that business leaders need to ask themselves— will they or won’t they be requiring their employees to be vaccinated and show proof of their vaccination in order to return to the office?
While many large organizations have been vocal about requiring vaccine passports for the return to office, not everyone is convinced that it is necessary for a returning workforce. President Biden also announced new workplace safety regulations in September, requiring companies with more than 100 employees to require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test to work in the office.
Ultimately, the choice to become vaccinated is a personal decision. However, that doesn’t mean that it is outside of an employer’s right to require vaccination for in-person work. With more than 1/3 of workers (34%) reporting that they are required to be vaccinated in order to attend work in person or go to company events, it’s unclear whether or not vaccine passports will continue to be the hot button issue that they once were. And we expect this number to continue to rise based on new federal mandates.
An increase in hybrid and remote work means an increased dependency on remote work tech and hybrid collaboration tools. As a response, more and more companies have begun investing in the new tech required to adequately support a hybrid workforce. Whether they are supplying their full-time remote employees with the software and hardware they need to succeed from a distance or they’re rewiring their office spaces to support on-site hybrid work, more and more companies are recognizing the need for updated tech tools to support a modern workforce.
More than half of workers (53%) say their companies have deployed new remote or hybrid collaboration technology— a sign that organizations are intent on creating new sustainable workplace policies. And nearly 1/4 of workers (24%) say that their employers have gone as far as outfitting every workspace with new tech. With the tools in place, there’s nothing stopping these newly hybrid and remote organizations from succeeding in our increasingly flexible world.
Workers aren’t quite ready to say sayonara to the physical workplace in favor of a completely remote lifestyle. One third of respondents moved during the pandemic, and 26% are still able to commute to their workplace, some because they are required to commute at some capacity.
For many, it’s not a permanent relocation, either. Of those who moved during the pandemic, 24% plan to relocate closer to their company office in the future.
Other top reasons folks are looking forward to returning is collaborating with coworkers and accessing more reliable tech. Companies will be looking to redesign their shared office spaces. The option to reserve a dedicated desk for a set amount of time and collaborate in smart meeting rooms are need-to-have workplace offerings.
The road to the return to office looks different for each organization and each employee. Some will easily adapt to the new demands of a hybrid workstyle and others will decide that the best path forward actually includes a degree of returning to some of the tried and true best practices they used in a pre-pandemic world. Whatever the path looks like for you and your company, it's important to be prepared for anything. To get you started, download our Tools for Navigating the Return to Office guide today.