- 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, but 35% of employers want a full return to office post-pandemic
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, according to the EY Work Reimagined Employer Survey 2021.
The survey canvassed more than 1,000 business leaders across nine countries and 25 industry sectors, examining their views on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workplace, including their perspectives on the risks and opportunities of hybrid working. The findings were then compared with the results of the EY Work Reimagined Employee Survey 2021.
The findings show that 79% of employers are planning to make moderate to extensive changes, in order to allow more hybrid working, reflecting the views of 90% of employees, who say they want flexibility in when and where they work. However, only 40% have communicated these plans, creating a potential disconnect with employees on crucial issues such as flexibility, culture, and productivity.
The remaining employer respondents are either still planning or waiting to communicate any decisions about their new ways of working – which will in part reflect the very different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world.
Despite the overwhelming recognition of the importance of flexible working; the survey reveals that 35% of employer respondents want all of their employees to return to the office full time post-pandemic. While some of these employers are in industries that require on-site presence, there are other organizations that can work virtually, but want it to happen in person.
Fifty-one percent of employer respondents say that they want to decrease business travel post-pandemic, but 66% of employee respondents say they want it to resume.
On key issues relating to culture and productivity there are also notable disconnects. Almost three quarters (72%) of employer respondents believe that workplace culture has improved since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 48% of employee respondents; and 82% of employer respondents believe productivity can now be measured from anywhere, compared to 67% of employee respondents.
Risks on the horizon
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%) 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. Forty-three percent say a key concern is how to retain talent and offer flexibility; and 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 well-being (28%)
In making these preparations, workplace safety is also a major consideration. The survey reveals that 43% will require staff to be fully vaccinated before returning to the office. A similar proportion (42%) plan to incentivize vaccination, for example, through paid time off for employees, subject to legislative requirements.
Commenting on the survey findings, Panayiotis Thrasyvoulou, Associate Partner and Head of People Advisory Services at EY Cyprus, says: “Employees have made it quite clear that they expect greater flexibility in the post pandemic working world. Employers need to adapt to this new reality and provide clarity with regard to their intentions for a seamless transition to a hybrid model that balances business and employee priorities. They must also come up with plans to deal with issues such as fair treatment of different groups of employees, development of future talent, training and reskilling and measuring productivity. What is at stake is nothing less than attracting and retaining the best talent.”