- A recent survey from EY found a disconnect between employees who want flexible working arrangements and how employers are addressing the best way to return to work.
- Over half of workers would consider leaving their job if they are required to go back to the office full-time.
- Many organizations seem to have commitment issues around flexible working – they know they need to adapt but are holding back on implementing any firm plans.
EY recently released its 2021 Work Reimagined Employer Survey. The study revealed a lack of clarity and a disconnect between employees who want flexible working arrangements and how employers are addressing the best way to return to work.
More than half (54%) of employees surveyed from around the world would consider leaving their job post-pandemic if they are not afforded some form of flexibility in where and when they work.
The survey discovered that the vast majority of employers around the world have not yet communicated any plans for the post-COVID-19 pandemic workplace, fueling a potential disconnect with employees who are seeking permanent new ways of working.
Key survey findings:
- 79% of companies intend to make moderate to extensive hybrid work changes, but only 40% have communicated their plans to workforce.
- Lack of clarity has created disconnect with employees who want flexible working arrangements.
- 90% of employees want flexibility.
Despite the overwhelming recognition of the importance of flexible working, the survey revealed that 35% of employer respondents want all of their employees to return to the office full-time post-pandemic.
51% of employer respondents say that they want to decrease business travel post-pandemic, but 66% of employee respondents say they want it to resume.
There is a lack of clarity surrounding plans to return to work
Liz Fealy, EY Global People Advisory Services Deputy Leader and Workforce Advisory Leader, has said that employers are very aware that employees are demanding flexibility, but the biggest danger facing most employers is that they fail to provide clarity around their hybrid work and return to office plans.
Many organizations seem to have commitment issues around flexible working – they know they need to adapt but are holding back on implementing any firm plans.
“We know that many employees are prepared to quit if they don’t get the flexibility they need and so employers who fail to move with the times do risk losing their people. Organizations that want to flourish need to ensure that their plans are well defined and communicated, and that they balance business and employee priorities in refining these plans to help create a win-win for the business and the workforce,” Fealy said.
On key issues relating to culture and productivity, there are notable disconnects
Almost three quarters (72%) of employer respondents believe that workplace culture has improved since the onset of the pandemic, compared to 48% of employee respondents.
82% of employer respondents believe productivity can now be measured from anywhere, compared to 67% of employee respondents.
Risk associated with the shift toward hybrid working
Employers who took part in the survey were also asked about risks beyond physical health that they believe may come with the shift toward hybrid working.
- Almost half (45%) of employers say one of the biggest risks will be their ability to establish fairness and equity among employees when some jobs require a fixed schedule or location, creating a “have and have not” dynamic based on roles.
- 43% say a key concern is how to retain talent and offer flexibility.
- 40% point to hybrid working as a risk to culture, creativity, and collaboration.
Other risks identified include developing next generation talent (39%), establishing and measuring productivity (36%), upskilling/reskilling employees for new ways of working (30%), adopting new technologies to support hybrid working (28%), supporting employee wellbeing (28%).
In making preparations for workers to return to the office, workplace safety is also a major consideration. The survey showed that just 43% of employers will require staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to the office. A similar proportion (42%) plan to incentivize vaccination through paid time off for employees (subject to legislative requirements).
“These various and complex risks make it harder for employers to define their back to office plans for a diverse workforce and leave many exposed to the possibility that employees will move to companies where flexibility is clearly implemented,” Fealy said.
It’s difficult for employers to decide when to bring workers back to the office
Companies including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Starbucks have announced postponements for when workers will be allowed back, and more employers are expected to follow as the U.S. suffers with the delta variant spreading rapidly throughout the country.
Return-to-office plans have been named “The Great Wait.” As of late August, 66% of organizations are delaying office re-openings due to COVID variants.
Dr. Neal Mills, chief medical officer for the professional services firm Aon, said employers have taken a step back to consider if they can afford the luxury of bringing employees back into the workplace.
“Each day the answers change; dynamic information is creating analysis paralysis for employers,” Dr. Mills told CNBC.
It’s unclear whether working full-time from the office will ever be the norm again, but most workers don’t want it to be.