The post-pandemic workplace is at a crossroads, with organizations and employees navigating the delicate balance between on-site and remote work. Whether this shift is permanent or slowly returning to pre-pandemic norms remains uncertain. What is clear, however, is the distinct disparity in the preferences of employees and employers. This discrepancy requires a nuanced understanding to determine the optimal solution for each organization.
Employees and Employers May Want Different Things
COVID-19 showed that there’s a significant disconnect between what employees and leadership want.
Put simply, employees overwhelmingly favor more flexible schedules and work environments. Organizations are trying to figure out how to provide flexibility where possible while building cultures of cooperation and collaboration.
The numbers tell the story.
According to Statista, in the year before the pandemic (2019), 47% of workplaces offered little or no flexibility to workers. Now, 67% offer complete or partial scheduling options.
A recent Gartner survey offered additional nuance to employee workplace preferences:
- 94% of workers say they need workplace flexibility
- 75% rank workplace flexibility as a top benefit
- 60% of remote workers say they’d leave their jobs if they could no longer work remotely
In contrast, a study by KPMG indicated that two-thirds of CEOs identify the ideal working environment to be full-time in the office, with only 27% in favor of hybrid or fully remote employees. As noted above, employees feel very differently.
Many of those same CEOs would say that remote work isn’t working so well, and they may have a point. When measuring productivity, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics says productivity rose by 4.4% in 2020 and by 2.2% in 2021. Then, productivity fell by 1.6% in 2022. The jury is still out as to whether workplace flexibility boosts productivity.
The jury may still be out about the future of the workplace, but organizations generally can’t afford to wait and see. Instead, leaders and organizations, must adapt to the current reality of the workplace to continue to improve operations and boost productivity. This requires careful consideration of workplace models and their impact on productivity, culture, talent acquisition, and customer satisfaction.
Why Companies Return To The Workplace
Organizations may still be figuring out what their workplace will look like in the future, but those where workers have returned to the office are clear as to their reasons. A study of 1,500 human resources professionals by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) listed these reasons for returning to the workplace:
- 75% – need for in-person collaboration and teamwork
- 69% – workplace culture and employee engagement considerations
- 65% – leadership preferences
- 54% – desire to restore a sense of normalcy and routine
- 41% – employee productivity concerns
10 Questions for Optimizing The Workplace
Before choosing a workplace model, organizations should consider the following questions:
- Can the job be done at a higher quality or quantity at one location?
- How will the work location affect organizational culture?
- How will the work location affect onboarding processes?
- Have employees expressed a preference?
- Are managers more competent in one setting versus another?
- How will the workplace affect talent pools, retention, and hiring?
- What are the effects on customers or clients (e.g., satisfaction, market share)?
- How do different workplace models affect financials (e.g., space costs, technology, office equipment)?
- What are the implications for risk management (e.g., HIPAA, confidentiality, liability)?
- How would the workplace model affect the employer brand?
In navigating the complexities of the evolving workplace, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, organizations that thoughtfully consider the impacts of workplace location will be better positioned for success.
The Lindenberger Group can help organizations carefully evaluate their options. For more information or to discuss your HR needs, please contact us at 609-730-1049 or send us an email.