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Flexible a fixture as technology critical to hybrid working future

Survey shows knowledge workers in leading economies believe that having an office space will be considered an employee benefit, rather than a mandatory way of working

A study from audio, video and collaboration systems provider Jabra has warned employers that the shift in attitude towards flexible working and office space suggests they need to restructure working environments to be appropriate for post-pandemic working life.

The Jabra hybrid ways of working 2021 global report was carried out among 5,036 knowledge workers in the US, the UK, France, Germany and Japan by the Harris Poll on behalf of Jabra from 21 May to 10 June 2021.

It showed that firms need to be cognisant of the fact that flexible working is here to stay, and has overtaken salary as the top benefit to employees (59%), highlighting that flexibility and autonomy over the working day is now more important than financial reward for most workers.

The report also found that nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) believe that in the future, having an office space will be considered an employee benefit as opposed to a mandatory way of working, and a similar amount (71%) of the global workforce also see the office as a social amenity and place to collaborate, with independent working happening off-site.

The main reasons why people wanted to return to the office were team connectivity, motivation and equipment challenges.

Yet companies that did a poor job in transitioning staff to remote working during the pandemic or concerns about career development might be the real drivers. Employees were more likely to request more days working in the office – three or more a week – if their company did not do a good job transitioning to remote work during the pandemic, with 17% wanting to be in the office full-time, compared with 14% for those who had a good experience with the remote work transition.

To create a successful hybrid working model, the survey advised business leaders to move away from formal policies, which lack the human element. Instead, they should focus on creating high-trust environments that set clear principles and guidelines, but at the same time give autonomy to employees. 

Yet even though the journey to hybrid is well under way, the study showed that three-quarters of employees are concerned about hybrid working, largely due to poor communication practices and an unequal playing field, and only 20% think their organisation is very prepared for hybrid, with UK employees feeling slightly more confident at 25%. More than half (52%) of the respondents also admitted they would prefer to work from home, but are concerned their career would suffer long-term.

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Despite worries and wishes regarding hybrid, the survey also showed that it could only be realised through adoption of the right technology. Indeed, moving beyond a hybrid working model, where employees have the choice between working from home or in an office, 75% of those in the study wanted to be able to work from anywhere in the future.

As a result, said Jabra, the right technology was more important than what it called “fancy offices in prime locations” when it came to attracting and retaining talent. Nine out of 10 UK knowledge workers said technology was critical to a “work from anywhere” future. Also, more than half of employees wanted personal technology to take with them wherever they wish to work, and almost three in four would prefer companies to select and provide that technology to make the hybrid experience equal. 

Moe than eight in 10 (84%) employees in the study agreed that “technology can help all employees have equal access to opportunities at work”, and they would “rather work for a company that invests in technology to better connect the workforce in a hybrid working future” (80%). Almost half (46%) of UK respondents said the right tech helps people feel included and represented in meetings.

The bottom line was that collaboration technology needs to adapt to allow people to turn any space into a workspace – previous technology designed for the odd day of remote working is no longer fit for purpose. 

Jabra SVP Holger Reisinger noted that the world of work is going through a significant change, and now is a pivotal moment. “While companies were initially thrust into remote working with little or no time to prepare, the pandemic will have a permanent impact on working structures,” he said. “As companies look to evolve their hybrid working strategies, the research shows that by continuing to invest in the right technology and giving employees autonomy over the working day, organisations can deliver a better working experience for employees.

“The companies that get it right will be the ones that don’t just listen to what employees want, but also understand why they want it.”

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