Research carried out by Momentive (NASDAQ: MNTV—formerly SurveyMonkey), a leader in agile experience management, exploring employees’ changing experience and expectations of work reveals that over half (52%) of British hybrid workers would leave their job if forced back into the office full time, with 11% saying they would quit on the spot. The pandemic has drastically changed the working landscape, and flexible and hybrid work have become core benefits offered to many UK workers (34% and 44% respectively). Employees are coming to expect more from their employers, with a four-day workweek (42%) and unlimited holiday (41%) chosen as the top two benefits employed UK adults want that they don’t already have. Companies looking to entice workers back into the office on a hybrid basis should look to balance their working policies and introduce both those that provide a safe and comfortable working environment in the office, as well as those that provide flexibility to their employees.
Return to office hesitancy
Although the return to the office is well and truly underway, employers should be careful about instinctively returning to ‘old’ ways of working if they want to retain staff during what is now being dubbed the ‘great resignation’. Fully 40% of workers overall have admitted to being hesitant about returning to the office full time, with the number rising drastically to 60% for workers who have been used to working on a hybrid or remote basis. However, there are actions employers can take to help ease employees’ concerns.
The top three actions an employer could take to make employees feel more comfortable about returning to the office are:
- Mandated vaccinations for all employees (35%)
- Providing a larger office space to help with social distancing (32%)
- Requiring negative COVID-19 tests on arrival (30%)
Whilst 85% of workers in the study have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, mandating vaccinations for all employees could be a contentious subject, as 15% have admitted to not having received a single dose of a vaccine yet. Companies should continue to be flexible, and respond to the changing COVID-19 landscape quickly and compassionately to retain staff and provide a safe working environment. For example, the rise of the Delta COVID-19 variant has made 32% of UK workers more hesitant about returning to the office, with younger employees aged 18-24 the most likely to have changed their stance on office working (41%) versus just 28% of 35- to 64-year-olds.
Employee preferences for the future of work
Whilst there are policies that employers can introduce to ease their current workforce’s concerns and provide a safe and flexible working environment, companies will need to start exploring benefits that UK workers now want to help attract new talent, as well as retain current staff. Gone are the days of beer-on-tap and ping pong tables being used to lure the best staff to work for you. In fact, having a bar in the office was singled out as the least desired benefit, with 65% of employees saying it’s not a benefit they wanted or were offered. Whilst a four-day workweek and unlimited holiday are the top two benefits employed UK adults want that they don’t already have (42% and 41% respectively), there is also a wish for enhanced wellbeing support. Mental health support was a benefit that doubled in popularity from just 17% before the pandemic to 33% during the pandemic. A quarter of workers are still keen to see this benefit introduced.
Benefits that employees would like to see offered in the future include
- A four-day workweek (42%)
- Unlimited holiday allowance (41%)
- Enhanced pension contributions (33%)
- Health insurance (33%)
- Enhanced parental leave and pay (29%)
Proximity bias is a concern
With the rise of flexible work, some staff are in the office and others are working remotely. Proximity bias—the idea that employees in close physical proximity will be perceived as better workers—is a concern. When asked about proximity bias, 21% of workers have worries about missing out on opportunities if they are working remotely. Moreover, 25% also admit that they ask the opinion of those they physically work with more than their remote colleagues. Young workers are most concerned about proximity bias, with one in three (34%) of 18- to 24-year-olds worried that working remotely will mean they have less of a say at work and miss out on opportunities, compared to just 7% of 55- to 64-year-olds.
The role of feedback in shaping what’s next
Along with offering flexible and hybrid work, one of the key elements that set employers apart during COVID-19 was how responsive they were to employee needs and feedback. Although 69% of hybrid UK workers say they have been asked for regular feedback during the pandemic, this number drops dramatically to just 41% of non-hybrid workers.
Along with the increased adoption of flexible work, another net positive to come out of the pandemic for workers is an increased sense of ownership and agency. Half (49%) of employees agree that their employers listen to their feedback more than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is a concern that with the world moving towards a post-pandemic way of working, this increased influence will be curtailed. One in five (18%) of UK workers are worried their employer will not take their opinions into consideration when deciding on working policies in 2022, with 12% concerned their employer will require a full return to the office next year.
“Employees are more empowered than ever, and companies need to offer what matters to them or risk losing great talent,” says Zander Lurie, CEO of Momentive. “Creating a work culture that your employees want to be a part of every day requires listening. Feedback helps business leaders tap into what workers need to be successful.”