Nearly half (47%) of employees surveyed from across the UK would consider leaving their job post-COVID-19 pandemic, if they are not afforded some form of flexibility in where and when they work, according to the 2021 EY Work Reimagined Employee Survey.
The survey – one of the largest global surveys of its kind – canvassed the views of more than 1,000 people from the UK, across multiple different industries and regions, and 16,000 globally, to explore their attitudes and experiences to work throughout the pandemic and into the ‘next normal’.
The survey finds that four-fifths of people surveyed in the UK want flexibility in where and when they work. Given the choice, nearly two-fifths (39%) would choose flexibility in when they work and a similar number (43%) want flexibility in where they work. On average, survey respondents said they would want to work between two and three days remotely after the pandemic. When pandemic restrictions ease, nearly one-fifth (19%) would prefer to work full time in the office, with two-fifths of employees saying they want a shorter working week altogether. Almost two-thirds (61%) believe their productivity can be accurately measured irrespective of location.
According to the survey, those most likely to move jobs include managers/leaders, those with technology or finance roles, and caregivers. Those most likely to stay in their current roles include baby boomers, individuals with 10+ years of tenure, and those in government or education roles. Attitudes to job retention differ by age, with millennials twice as likely as baby boomers to quit. Despite the apparent willingness to move jobs for more flexible working arrangements, most of those surveyed in the UK (79%) say they are satisfied with their jobs, and a significant majority (88%) say they plan to stay in their current roles for the following 12 months.
David Storey, EY EMEIA Workforce Advisory Leader, says: “The experience of many organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that there is both the desire and the ability to increase flexibility in how, where, and when work takes place. Our survey data shows that a flexible work regime that meets the needs of the business and its people will support attraction and retention efforts and should be front and centre of future talent strategies.”
Remote working and Organisational culture
The survey also canvassed attitudes to existing work practices, with respondents broadly positive about the impact of remote working. Almost half (41%) say their organisational culture has changed and improved during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, while only one-third (31%) believe it has worsened.
Looking at attitudes towards business travel, more than two-thirds of respondents surveyed in the UK said they want to see a return to business travel post pandemic. A key driver of that travel for employees is the desire to attend internal meetings, followed by events, and face-to-face time with clients.
Seema Farazi, EY People Advisory Services Partner, says: “Businesses should be looking to use their return to business travel models to drive more sustainable global practices. The post-Brexit landscape adds additional regulatory challenges, particularly for cross border remote workers”.
When looking at preferences of male and female employees, 74% of men said they would like to travel for business moderately to extensively after COVID-19 versus 57% of women. And when comparing carers and non-caregivers, two-thirds of carers would like to travel for business moderately, compared to just over half (55%) for non-caregivers.
Health and Safety
The survey also explored attitudes to the COVID-19 vaccine and found that over a half (56%) want their company to make vaccination a pre-requisite for working from the office.
Work from anywhere requires increased technology investments
The prospect of increasingly widespread flexible working is leading to more demand for technology, both on-site and in the home office. Two-thirds (64%) of respondents say they want better technology in the office (e.g., faster internet and videoconferencing) and almost half (43%) say they want companies to upgrade at-home hardware (e.g. extra monitors and headsets). However, despite the shift towards new ways of working and the rapid adoption of ‘virtual meeting’ technology, just over half (51%) would like to travel for business moderately to extensively after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seema Farazi concludes: “Organisational culture has historically been built based on shared in-person experiences and it is fascinating to see that the new ways of working have improved such culture in the eyes of many employees. As we look towards the longer-term as organisations continue to transform their operations, employers will need to consistently re-assess conceptions of productivity and the impact on their cultures, ensuring their approach is optimised for the in-person, hybrid and digital work experience.”