Few workers see employers as ready for new normal

Study finds vast majority of workers feel employers are not fully prepared to support the longer-term move to a hybrid workforce, prompting a need for organisations to plan their ‘future workplace’ better

A study from Sony Professional Solutions has revealed that only one in five (20%) workers feel that employers are fully prepared to support the “new normal” of mixed working arrangements post-pandemic.

Yet even though Covid-19 has changed work in a way no one could have foreseen, with a flexible combination of remote and office-based working, the study reflected concern about the need for employers to plan their future workplace better, with hybrid working set to become standard.

The survey found that since the first lockdown in March 2020, over half (51%) of office workers felt employers could have done more to support remote working, with only 30% feeling completely supported.

Nearly three-quarters of workers (72%) now expect to work remotely at least one day a week post-pandemic, with 65% expecting to work from home for at least two days a week.

Attitudes around a return to the office for one day or more have also shifted since December, with over one-third (35%) believing they will not return until either the second half of the year or 2022 at the earliest. Only 20% felt the same way a month ago.

Almost one-third (31%) believe a return to five-day office working will not happen until 2022, if at all.

The shift towards a more hybrid model of work is being led by 18-24-year-olds, with three-quarters (75%) expecting to work from home for at least two days a week. Sony Professional Solutions regarded this finding as somewhat surprising given that Millennials and Generation Z are less likely to have dedicated home office space, unlike Generation X.

However, the results showed that just 13% of 18-24-year-olds expected ever to return to work full-time, compared with over half (51%) of 35-54-year-olds.

Sony believes a number of distinct working trends are likely emerge: work will become flexible, with people needing options; the home is a new opportunity; collaboration will become critical; the emergence of virtual and physical social spaces; and meeting rooms will become key.

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Although it recognised that the home office is clearly here to stay, Sony said it has a long way to go to be optimised for productivity, health and for companies to be able to monitor employee work to improve collaboration. It expected businesses to come pouring in with new ideas around home offices.

It also said that collaboration technologies – already a growing market pre-pandemic – have become critical for businesses, and with fewer people able to interact in person, innovation and productivity will rely on effective collaboration technology.

Yet the survey cautioned that even though virtual conference platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have established a place in the modern work environment, there is a real gap between in-person social stimulation and virtual interactions.

In this regard, the company quoted Aristotle, who said humans were essentially social creatures and needed to be around people and feel a sense of community. As a result, said Sony, a key focus for offices would be how to make people feel connected and satisfied socially.

The company admitted that, at present, it is hard to predict whether the meeting room market will grow because some companies will downsize their real estate footprints to cut costs. It is more confident that the design of meeting rooms will become more important and that this also meant communication and collaboration technology will grow in select areas, including cameras for conferencing, displays for presentations and conferencing, wireless presentation technology and new systems for more creative collaboration.

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