March 27, 2021

AZ Business Magazine

Just 12% of bosses think everyone will return to the office

Flexible work policies will endure after the pandemic and the traditional office will remain but with significant changes, according to a new survey by Vocon, an architecture, interior design and workplace strategy consulting firm. Overall, 66 percent of employers expect to implement some form of a hybrid work model, and 44 percent of corporate leaders anticipate employees will work in the office for most of the work week. Overall, 66 percent of employers expect to implement some form of a hybrid work model, and 44 percent of corporate leaders anticipate employees will return to the office for most of the work week.

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The new survey included 103 corporate leaders, who employ nearly 1 million workers at 72 companies nationwide. Respondents represented a broad range of industries including real estate, finance, law, insurance, architecture, design and engineering, plus manufacturing among others. The survey shows that flexible work policies are here to stay because they’ve largely worked, with a full 80 percent of respondents reporting that their teams’ performance has either remained consistent or increased during the last year of remote work (only 20 percent say performance has decreased). 

Just 12 percent of businesses expect all of their employees will work at the office full time, five days a week after the pandemic, while 22 percent anticipate employees returning to offices just one or two days a week, 44 percent think workers will come back to the office at least three days a week, and the remainder (21 percent) are undecided. Nearly 70 percent of employers say they will use flexible work policies as a way to attract and retain talent and 51 percent will keep the policies because employees are demanding them.

While most employers believe remote work has not significantly reduced productivity, maintaining a strong work culture during the pandemic was thought to be challenging or extremely challenging by 62 percent of employers. In addition, nearly 60 percent say mentorship and professional development are challenging, and over 50 percent report onboarding new employees has been an issue during the pandemic. 

At present, more than 20 percent of companies have already brought their employees back to the office, while 30 percent don’t plan to return until a vaccine is widely distributed and 16 percent are unsure when they will bring employees back. 15 percent say workers won’t return till Q3 and 14 percent say Q2. As employers plan for workers to return, they’re making a number of permanent changes to offices. 

Thirty-three percent are moving to room reservation systems, 28 percent are using hoteling or “hot desk” models in which workers store goods on site (e.g. in company lockers) and reserve open, unassigned desks, 22 percent are adding health screening kiosks, apps or other safety devices, 21 percent are installing touch-free access controls and 18 percent are putting in occupancy/capacity sensors.

For those working from home, 24 percent of employers intend to help employees set up home offices by providing resources like equipment, WIFI upgrades or a stipend, while 28 percent don’t plan to help employees and 44 percent are unsure.