Wellness essential as hybrid work to see total redesign of the office

Almost one-fifth of companies are asking employees to return to the office full-time, as new workspaces with quiet zones, Zoom pods and wellness areas are seen as key to retaining and attracting talent

A report published by premium audio and video products developer Poly warns that as employees make a staggered return to offices, a lack of hybrid work strategies could put businesses at risk, in particular a failure to recognise the importance of culture and wellness in improving the employee experience.

The Recruit, retain and grow report examined how organisations are preparing for the future of hybrid work, and its impact on the relationship between employers and employees. It was based on an online omnibus survey of 2,528 business decision-makers from middle management level and above, conducted by Sapio from December 2021 to February 2022.

Countries surveyed included the UK (303), France (200), Germany (204), Spain (229), Sweden (205), Poland (110), the United Arab Emirates (224), the US (212), Canada (100), Mexico (100), Japan (105), Australia (104), India (104), Ireland (117), Singapore (102) and China (109).

The report found that 58% of organisations saw a higher turnover in staff over the course of the pandemic, almost one-fifth (19%) of organisations are expecting staff to return to the office full-time, and 81% of organisations are now enabling some degree of flexibility. On average, employees are being asked to come in three days a week, with Wednesday the most popular day to visit the office.

The pandemic has forced organisations to rethink or redesign workspaces, and the research found that 64% of organisations no longer view the office as the face of the company, now focusing on technology and experience. Also, 77% of companies said they were planning to redesign their office, with more open plan areas, collaboration spaces, quiet zones, and areas to socialise. Organisations are also investing, or planning to invest, in technologies to improve employee experience, including collaboration software, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom (92%), cloud applications (92%), headsets (89%) and cameras (86%).

Even though nearly three-quarters (72%) of organisations had seen an increase in productivity since initiating hybrid work – averaging 27% – almost half of organisations (49%) believed there was an unhealthy culture of overworking within their organisation. Just over three-quarters (77%) of organisations planned to redesign the office to include more open-plan areas, collaboration spaces, areas to socialise and quiet zones. But less than half of organisations (48%) are fully prepared for the future of hybrid work, while 37% are only prepared in the short term.

“The fact that so many companies are redesigning their offices suggests we are about to witness a seismic shift in the role of the office,” said Poly EMEA managing director Paul Clark. “Organisations have to offer employees an incentive for going into the office, and we are seeing that creating more open-plan areas, collaboration spaces, quiet zones and areas to unwind are high on the list of priorities for many companies.

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“But to ensure an equal experience, organisations must consider how hardware intersects with people’s work habits and preferences, their office space, and other technologies like Zoom or Teams. If they don’t, employees won’t have access to the right tools for them, creating an unequal experience that negatively impacts recruitment, retention, business growth and productivity.”

The research found that recruiting and retaining staff has become a key challenge for organisations. More than half of organisations (56%) thought that if they didn’t address their hybrid work plans, they would start to lose staff and will be unable to attract new talent. Indeed, 58% of organisations have seen a higher turnover in staff over the course of the pandemic, and 55% worry that the effects of the Great Resignation combined with skills shortages could put them out of business.

Exiting employees disclosed that the top reasons for leaving were tied to their employer’s approach to hybrid work. These were: they found something better suited (19%); they wanted more flexibility around anytime/hybrid/remote working (16%); they didn’t like the shift to hybrid work (14%); they felt under too much pressure to work long hours (12%); and felt unhappy over their employer’s handling of Covid (9%).

The report concluded by calling on business leaders to consider how they use people, technology and spaces to create engaging working environments, and to encourage leadership teams to take a step further and adopt a people-first approach. This entails considering who uses what space, at what time, with what frequency and for what purpose, to ensure the right technology is adopted.

“Companies are aware that their hybrid work strategy is key to retaining and attracting talent,” said Clark. “While business continuity was the focus for many companies when the pandemic first hit, they must now focus on creating a hybrid work environment that puts employees first, or risk losing them to competitors.”

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