According to a EY survey titled EY Reimagined Employer Survey 2021, 73% of employer respondents believe that workplace culture has improved since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The findings show that 61% of employers are planning to make moderate to extensive changes in order to allow more hybrid working, reflecting the views of 90% of employees, who say they want flexibility in when and where they work. However, only 46% have communicated these plans, creating a potential disconnect with employees on crucial issues such as flexibility, culture, and productivity. The remaining employer respondents are either still planning or waiting to communicate any decisions about their new ways of working.
Despite the overwhelming recognition of the importance of flexible working, the survey reveals that 39% of employer respondents want all their employees to return to the office full time post-pandemic. While some of these employers are in industries that require on-site presence, there are other organizations that can operate virtually but want it to happen in person.
On issues relating to business travel there was a notable disconnect where 63% percent of employer respondents say that they want to decrease business travel post-pandemic, but 90% of employee respondents say they want it to resume.
On other key issues such as productivity, employees and employers were in agreement, where 83% of employer respondents believe productivity can now be measured from anywhere, compared to 85% of employee respondents.
Risks to the work culture
Employers who took part in the survey were also asked about risks beyond physical health that they believe may come with the shift toward hybrid working. Almost half (53%) say one of the biggest risks will be their ability to establish fairness and equity among employees when some jobs require a fixed schedule or location creating a ‘have and have not’ dynamic based on roles. 50% say a key concern is how to retain talent and offer flexibility and develop next generation talent (49%).
Other risks identified include 41% pointing to hybrid working as a risk to culture, creativity and collaboration, supporting employee well-being (40%), establishing and measuring productivity (37%), adopting new technologies to support hybrid working (35%) and upskilling/reskilling employees for new ways of working (28%).
In making these preparations, workplace safety is also a major consideration. The survey reveals that 61% will require staff to be fully vaccinated before returning to the office. However, a smaller proportion (45%) plan to incentivize vaccination through paid time off for employees or such other initiatives subject to legislative requirements.
Anurag Malik, Partner, People Advisory Services, EY India, said, “Employers have heard loud and clear that employees are demanding flexibility in the post pandemic working world. The biggest danger facing most employers is that they fail to provide clarity around their hybrid work and return to office plans. Organizations that want to flourish need to ensure that their plans are well defined and communicated, and that they balance business and employee priorities in refining these plans to help create a win-win for the business and the workforce.”