Surveying the new hybrid landscape

With the largest benchmark database for employee workplace experience, we provide organisations with the insights to build the best possible workplaces.

We analyse this data in our quarterly data debriefs and present the current changes and insights across global workplaces. This article covers the findings from our latest data debrief, which focused on what Corporate Real Estate leaders are saying about their future workplace strategy and how the workplace has changed since the pandemic. We cover the implications our insights have for workplaces and what organisations need to consider when creating a workplace that provides an outstanding employee experience.

The pandemic massively disrupted the ways of working; it highlighted that employees can work just as well and productively at home as in the office.

What emerged early in the pandemic, and what our data is still telling us today, is that the average home supports the average employee better than the average office. Though this may sound alarming for pre-pandemic offices, it provides an opportunity for organisations to build better workplaces to support employees’ current and future needs.

In Spring 2021, we asked 102 corporate real estate leaders on their plans for the ‘future of work’ and their current states. Nine months later, we wanted to see how their sentiments had changed. Our most recent poll collected insights from 125 corporate real estate leaders across 105 organisations. The data collated from our 2022 poll highlighted that many still have not implemented strategies for their future workplace programmes. A significant statistic found was that while 54% of organisations had a workplace strategy in place and it had been communicated to employees, almost a third of organisations are still in the beginning stages of planning. Considering that the respondents are from fast-paced organisations, these findings are concerning as a significant number of employees are still uncertain about their future workplace programme. Yet we can expect a significant shift towards hybrid working, with 57% of real estate leaders in 2021 stating they would apply a hybrid model including home and office, which increased to 68% in 2022. This shift to hybrid working is supported by our findings with more than 60% of organisations planning to decrease their real estate footprints by leasing smaller spaces.

Looking at how well the present office supports employees, in the shift to hybrid, our data debrief focused on comparing most recent data from Q3 2021 to Q1 2022 (reflecting employees returning to the office) with our pre-pandemic dataset from 2019. The recent data included 52,957 respondents who worked only in the office or in a hybrid way (office + other locations), and the pre-pandemic data included 235,644 respondents who worked only in the office.

In the current hybrid working environment, our data shows that the under 25 age group are the least likely to work in a hybrid way and are more inclined to work at home than any other age group. The same was found for respondents with less experience (measured by the time spent in the organisation).

This was surprising as our research has previously shown that these demographics have a less positive experience when working from home and are more likely to benefit from working in the office.

Therefore, organisations must investigate why these groups work to the largest extent at home despite benefitting the most from working in the office. Specifically, what the office needs to do better to support them in their roles and to encourage them to work in the office more.

However, it must be emphasised that there should be a clear benefit to working in the office over other locations, or else we might potentially see a decrease productivity and collaboration. For example, our analysis has shown that home workers (current home only and hybrid excluding office respondents) have significantly higher agreement rates on their environment enabling them to work productively and sharing ideas and knowledge, compared to office workers (pre-pandemic, current office only and hybrid including office respondents). This links back to our key finding that the average home supports the average employee better than the average office.

Importantly, it tells us that we need to improve workplaces so that they empower and support employees’ roles when working in a hybrid way.

Organisations can achieve this by investigating which work activities are important to employees, and how well their offices support these.

There have been many shifts in what employees deem an important activity now compared to pre-pandemic. One significant change discovered was the shift in importance from collaborative work to individual activities. We found that collaborating on focused work was no longer in the top five most important work activities for the recent respondents compared to pre-pandemic. Instead, individual routine tasks became one of the top five most important activities. Considering the importance collaborative work has on knowledge sharing and fueling innovation, this may be slightly concerning, and organisations need to consider how to increase the sense of importance on collaborative work.

When investigating the changes in the importance of workplace features now compared to pre-pandemic, we found that the physical features considered more important for hybrid workers were small meeting rooms, quiet rooms and desk booking systems.

The insights collated on service features illustrate that hybrid workers find IT infrastructure such as Wi-Fi network connectivity, remote access to work files or network, and audio-visual equipment more important now than the pre-pandemic respondents.

These features need to be better supported by the office workplace to encourage employees back to the office.

Another key element that needs to be considered when bringing employees back is their commute. Insights from our Journey to Workplace Module show a strong correlation between satisfaction with commuting and the frequency in which employees would like to commute to the office. Organisations must be aware of how the commute can impact an employee’s day. For example, the need for more parking spaces has increased in importance for employees now compared to pre-pandemic respondents.

Improving and offering more parking spaces can provide more commuting options and a better commuting experience for employees, thus making it easier and more compelling to return to the office.

We also found that only 4% of those with a long commute (>1 hour) spent 4-5 days in the office, compared to 35% of those with a short commute (<15 min). In this instance, a hybrid working model works well for those with a long commute, and especially those which include a third space nearer those who live further away from the workplace.

On a final but important note, this data represents aggregated data across a large dataset, and the variance between organisations needs to be considered. Although general insight benchmark data can be useful, there is no one size fits all regarding the changes that need to be applied in the workplace. When planning your workplace strategy, it is essential to assess where your workforce is compared to other organisations in your industry.

Our solutions can help you understand what your employees consider important in their roles and how well they are supported in their workplace, informing your future workplace strategies. Connect with us to learn more.

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