A new study from Leesman offers “the first indication” to how hybrid working will pan out in a post-pandemic world.
Based on 66,768 responses from workers between Q3-Q4 2021, the study is a snapshot of people’s habits, experiences and preferences in how they work – broken down by age, gender and roles.
Covid is still causing some restrictions around the world, and that could affect the results in the long run. “Nonetheless, I do think that this gives a little bit of the first indication to what could hybrid look like going forward,” said Peggie Rothe, chief insights and research officer at Leesman at a data briefing this week.
Here are some of the highlights:
1. More people worked in a hybrid way in 2019 than in 2021
Though surprising, the reason is simple: back in 2019 no one surveyed worked exclusively from home, while 65% had a hybrid setup and 35% worked exclusively from an office. Two years later, 29% work only from home, 60% work flexibly and 11% work at an office.
2. Women are more likely to work at an office than men
Rothe said that while there was initially a fear that hybrid working would mean women would end up staying at home and lose out on potential career progression, that does not appear to have happened “and, hopefully, that’s an indication that it’s not a risk going forward either”.
Some 13% of women worked from an office only, compared to 10% of men. Men were also more likely to work exclusively from home (32% vs 27%).
3. Newcomers risk losing out on training
Young people (under 25) are the most likely to work from home only (45% of respondents, compared to 25% among those 55 and over). A similar proportion of those who have spent up to six months with an organisation work from home only.
While this could partly be a reflection of people changing jobs for more flexibility, Rothe said there is a “bit of a risk” that newcomers are missing out on opportunities to learn and “kind of rub off against colleagues in the organisation”.
4. Designated desks might be bad for business
More respondents who use flexible, non-allocated workstations say they need access to the workplace than those who have designated desks (67% vs 55%).
In a hybrid future, Rothe asked, is there a place for designated desks if there is even the slightest inclination that they dissuade people from coming into the office?
5. Hybrid working is the most effective way of meeting everyone’s needs – but it won’t be easy
A whopping 97% of employees would find places to work productively in an “optimal” hybrid working environment. This compares to 91% of those working from home only and 71% of those exclusively at the workplace.
“The challenge is for them to be able to do the right things in the right location depending on what they’re doing,” said Rothe.
The study suggested – perhaps unsurprisingly – that people find different environments better for doing different tasks productively. Being given the option to choose where to work has the potential to make people’s job more productive and enjoyable.
Rothe said: “That experience can be quite outstanding, but basically, the biggest risk is that that doesn’t happen.” For example, employers mandating when people have to be in the office could break down trust between them and their employees.
Inconvenient commutes could also have a detrimental impact: just 4% of people with a commute of more than an hour plan to spend five days in the office. If there is a correlation between the commute and where someone chooses to work, they are unlikely to do the right activities in the right place.
Landlords and tenants will have to consider how to overcome those hurdles. That must involve continued flexibility in responding to employee needs and the use of “third spaces” – a growing network of offices wherever they’re needed.