Where do you work?
The whole notion of the workplace is evolving. We know one big reason why, but we also know that the incremental shift toward decentralization, especially for knowledge-driven organizations, predates early 2020.
What we didn’t know was exactly how the working world has been reshaping itself since the advent of the COVID-19 global pandemic — until now. Our inaugural EY Future Workplace Index, one of the ﬁrst of its kind, offers a new window into the ofﬁce. And wherever you sit or stand, the new normal is hybrid.
The concrete EY survey data signals a sea change for the traditional nine-to-ﬁve ofﬁce-based environment — but there’s positive news about productivity, culture and collaboration.
The future is hybrid.
The EY Future Workplace Index analyzed responses from C-suite leaders at 501 companies across industry sectors, ranging from 250 employees to more than 25,000. Response data was parsed by sector, size, work function, and workplace management since March 2020.
Here’s what we know now.
Yes, companies are slowly migrating employees back to the ofﬁce, but there is no return to “normal,” and 87% of companies say the pandemic has permanently changed the role of the physical ofﬁce for their organization.
- 1. The EY Future Workplace Index shows that 48% of companies are almost evenly split between office and remote work. Pre-COVID-19, the percentage was 66% working in the office, and our survey suggests that number will ultimately land at about 59% in the post-COVID-19 working world.
- 2. The pandemic did not create the move to hybrid, but it certainly accelerated it. Previously, 40% of employees were already working in both office and remote locations, while about 45% were in the office full time and 15% were fully remote. Today, 42% of company employees are using a hybrid work approach, with 27% back in office full time and about 31% fully remote.
- 3. The lasting and material impact on office use is a serious consideration, with full-time office workers dropping from 45% of the office population to 35%. Company leaders expect that hybrid workers will increase back up to 45% of all staff, compared to 40% pre-COVID-19, and around 20% will end up working remotely all the time, compared to 15% pre-COVID-19.
- 4. With 75% of companies indicating they envision a future with no centralized workspace and just 20% reporting a return to the office by 90% of employees or more, leaders must consider the long-term effect on their employees and the workplace overall.
- 5. The hybrid workplace is the clear business model for the future
Some employees are inspired by the opportunity to work from home, gladly channeling energy they previously spent on an unpredictable commute, child or pet care arrangements, or professional dress and appearance, back into their daily work itself. Others may feel unmotivated, isolated and deprived of personal interaction and camaraderie, especially if they are working in a near-empty ofﬁce. Still others may consider themselves invisible to their leadership and struggle to keep work performance up to usual and expected levels.
In general, the EY Future Workplace Index reveals that companies expect to end up with about 35% of their workforce full time in the ofﬁce, compared to 45% pre-pandemic, and another 45% using it for some of the work week. With 27% of employees already back in the ofﬁce full time, the migration to the future model is well over halfway complete.
In this new working world, the EY Future Workplace Index reveals that employers are concerned by a number of factors, including fairness and equity, retention of talent, and maintaining culture, creativity and collaboration.
Other worries include effective meeting management, reduced collaboration among teams, a decrease in mentoring both formal and informal, and employee burnout due to a lack of delineation between work and home life.
“Hybrid work is here to stay, yet leaders aren’t creating the policies needed for hybrid success and the consequences could be signiﬁcant. Employees don’t want to work in an ambiguous environment, and talent retention and attraction is on the line,” says Mark Grinis, Global Real Estate, Hospitality & Construction Leader, Ernst & Young LLP. “We know the pandemic’s effect on future workplaces is signiﬁcant, and this index reveals there is a critical gap, and guidelines are needed to maximize sustained workplace success in a hybrid environment.”
A thoughtful, ﬁrm and well-governed hybrid work plan, created and supported from the leadership level, can clarify expectations and align work styles to maintain effectiveness and productivity across organizations of all sizes and sectors.
What is the business impact of these seismic shifts?
The news is largely positive. Company leaders responding to the EY survey report that four signiﬁcant business areas have improved by pre-COVID-19 measures — productivity, culture, well-being, and operations and processes.
Productivity According to our survey, 57% of respondents say productivity has increased over pre-pandemic measures. Rather than using the disruption as an excuse for stakeholders and shareholders, companies have found ways to enhance output using different working models.
Culture For 70% to 85% of EY survey respondents, their employees indicate that culture and personal well-being are improved over pre-COVID-19 conditions. Of those respondents, 83% report that fewer than half of their employees are in the ofﬁce full time.
Stress There is also evidence of employee burnout and increased stress on the workforce, and a sustainable model will require deliberate strategy and policies. Consistent scheduling of management time in the ofﬁce will foster the collaboration and mentoring critical to staff development and productivity.
Courtesy EY. Click here for full report