Office Image by tookapic from Pixabay Qualtrics has published the results of a survey of 1050 employed adults in the US about their thoughts on hybrid working. The challenge for business leaders is to understand their workforce and whether they want to return to the office full time or part-time.

The research broke down some responses by generation, gender and industry. What is clear is that opinions are varied and organisations will need to think carefully about a narrow definition of the working environment that everyone experiences pre-pandemic.

Full-time office working is almost dead

Only 13% of workers want to return to the office five days a week, The results show that women (9%) are less keen on a return than men (18%). Seniors leaders are more likely to want to go back (24%), against only 5% of more junior employees.

Where the Qualtrics survey falls down is that there is no qualitative follow up to this. Do women want to work from home because they have greater childcare or other responsibilities? Why do senior leaders want to go into the office?

What Qualtrics did ask respondents is, why they didn’t want to go into the office? For those who could answer, the top five reasons were:

  • They are more productive at home (17%)
  • They want to avoid the commute (17%)
  • There is no need to go into the office (15%)
  • They don’t want to wear a mask (8%)
  • No one else in the office (6%)
Benjamin Granger, PhD, Qualtrics Head of Employee Experience Advisory Services
Benjamin Granger, PhD, Qualtrics Head of Employee Experience Advisory Services

Although people don’t wish to return to the office full time, 67% do want to work in a hybrid way. The challenge this poses for organisations is what to do. Benjamin Granger, PhD, Qualtrics Head of Employee Experience Advisory Services commented: “Employers have been discussing return-to-office plans since the beginning of the pandemic, and now the crystal ball is finally starting to show a clearer picture of what the future of work experience might look like.

“As companies craft and communicate these plans, it’s vital that they have insight into the concerns that remain for their employees. That way they can truly empathize and address employees’ worries and uncertainties head-on as they evolve the work environment.”

The picture is still changing

Organisations face the dilemma of half-empty offices that are expensive. Many business leaders are looking to consolidate into smaller and fewer offices to support the new working environment, but will people want to return to the office?

Qualtrics also looked at the reasons why people do not wish to return. Some never wish to return, that may be because of a better work-life balance. There are things that organisations can change:

  • 25% say they would return only if everyone was vaccinated
  • 10% would return only if the office was a better working environment
  • 15% would return only if they were paid more

The latter is slightly ironic as many organisations may look to cut salaries if people are working from home in cheaper locations, with no requirements for commuting costs. Perhaps worryingly for organisations, Gen Z cited being paid more to work from the office as their top reason to return. 20% of millennials and Gen Z don’t want to return to the office at all.

Covid also casts a deep shadow over employees with 59% of workers nervous about the ending of mask restrictions. Tech workers appear more concerned about a lack of masks (72%) than  health workers (48%) and government workers (55%)

The survey was conducted in February 2022 and the above figures are only 7% lower than a year ago. Attitudes are changing, but slowly.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

The situation is still evolving. Organisations need to poll their employees to understand individual requirements. They also need to consider the approach to property space. Should they consolidate, refurbish the internal spaces or leave offices unchanged.

There is also the generation question. While the existing workforce may generally wish to move to a hybrid working environment, there are indications that the trend going forward is to increase home working, but not for all. There will be individuals unable to work from home due to environment, or situation.

There is also the question of pay, Qualtrics did not ask whether employees are willing to receive less pay for working from home. It’s an interesting question that might have changed the findings slightly.


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