The freedom and convenience of working from home mean it has long been seen as the future, but it took a pandemic to make it a reality for many office workers. Now that people have the option of joining meetings with colleagues from their kitchen table or home office a couple of days a week, they are not prepared to return to the old ways.
We spoke to 4,000 office workers all over the world for JLL’s Workforce Preferences Barometer and found hybrid was overwhelmingly the most popular way of working – only 26% say they are working exclusively in the office. With recruitment and retention of talent at a premium, this presents new challenges for employers. Employees now expect the hybrid model will be supported with financial assistance, tech and office equipment.
But there are opportunities, too. It is a chance to show you are a flexible and empathetic employer, and our research shows an increasing number of people feel more engaged and empowered in their role. Forward-thinking companies are using hybrid working to reinvent their employee value proposition.
But rumours of the demise of the office have been greatly exaggerated – nearly three quarters of workers are in the office at least once a week and just 16% exclusively work from home. Half of our survey respondents said they missed social interactions when working remotely, while 44% missed the common understanding and bonding that go with collective face-to-face work.
The office of the future must become an inviting and inclusive destination where each member of the work community can seek mental wellbeing support, peer recognition and a sense of belonging.
It must also become the anchor of an organisation, one that enables shared achievements while allowing individual fulfilment and multiple workstyles to flourish. Hybrid has created a pivotal moment for employers to redefine the way we work and socialise. However, its sustained success as a work style will mean a rethink of managerial cultures and community dynamics.
The responsibility for making these new arrangements work for employees and the business falls on companies, particularly balancing the positivity of home working with the mental health consequences of employees who physically interact less. Our research shows that while this work style is empowering, it also requires a ‘perpetual change’ mindset to constantly adapt to different work environments, work rhythms and co-workers.
This new landscape is complex. While hybrid working is the choice of the majority, employers have a responsibility to everyone on the payroll and one size does not fit all. Our research found that while a third of the workforce was strongly enthusiastic about the changes taking place in the workplace today, another third felt left behind.
The responsible employer will be the one that helps hybrid workers to manage healthy boundaries between their professional and private lives, maintain their social connections and redefine their healthy routines and rituals. The prize of getting it right is an empowered and fulfilled workforce.
Flore Pradère is global work dynamics research director at JLL