Employees have new expectations. They demand freedom and flexibility

With the vaccine rollout, many countries are envisioning a summer that resembles the pre-pandemic reality. Besides resuming travel, parties, and gatherings, we could finally sit next to our colleagues back in the office. The question is – do we want to? Yes, but employees have certain expectations.

In the meantime, employees have become accustomed to the perks of hybrid working. They don’t plan to give up the freedom that remote work brought. Will employers listen? We’ve looked for answers in the reports by Envoy and PwC

The expectations of post-pandemic employees

Remember those times when job ads listed “one day of home office” as a work benefit? It took one pandemic, and suddenly, the home office is no longer just “nice to have”. It could be the difference between talent staying or leaving the company. 

Both surveys showed that more than half of employees have expectations to work remotely three days a week or more. That doesn’t necessarily mean home office. Flexible work arrangements could lead to a golden era of digital nomadism – a work desk in Bali doesn’t sound half bad after all! Interestingly, it’s not just office workers who are demanding hybrid work. Even professionals from areas such as healthcare, construction, retail, and hospitality expect some form of flexibility. 

Employees are even willing to take pay cuts in favor of the hybrid work model (41%), and 47% of employees would likely quit if remote work isn’t allowed after the pandemic. The benefits such as savings on commuting, work/life balance, and boosted performance have become too valuable to let them go again suddenly. 

What about employers?

How do the “the bosses” see it? Most of them (68%) think that three days a week in the office is necessary. Otherwise, the company culture will suffer. Around the same number believe that it’s also crucial for productivity, collaboration and meetings. Only 24% of executives expect employees to work mostly remotely.

The expectations of employees and employers don’t exactly align. If employers don’t comply with expectations, the employees who tasted freedom will go elsewhere. On the other hand, give them too much freedom, and you might crush the culture and collaborative team spirit. Agreeing on the new normal to everyone’s satisfaction will surely be a tricky process. However, it could be a cornerstone of workplaces that suit modern life much better than pre-pandemic. 

Office redefined

No matter how many employees will remain in the hybrid model, offices will still be significant. However, their purpose will change. 

Naturally, offices will be crucial for collaboration, at least until technology can simulate physical proximity. But now, employee expectations include freedom to decide. What work environment is suitable for the tasks on a given given day? Maybe it’s the office, but it could be being home alone or a park. More than one third of respondents would also consider who else will be in the office that day. 

Does that mean offices will get smaller? Not necessarily. Only around one third of executives believe they’ll need to cut down on office space due to remote work. On the contrary, around half of them think the offices will need to get bigger, as per safety concerns related to covid. What’s ahead might be unclear, but 87% of surveyed executives are planning changes. 

They will look different, though. Architects and designers are starting to see requests directly influenced by the pandemic already. We may see more materials and surfaces that are easier to clean or have antibacterial qualities, and the design should allow enough personal space. That could be the final nail in the coffin of open-plan offices where diseases (and noise, for that matter) spread quickly. 

The triumphant comeback of coworking spaces

Hanging out in a coworking space, usually more dynamic and crowded than a regular office, may not have been the best idea during the pandemic. However, when we go back to work, it might just be the place where we want to be. AllWork.Space has gathered from reports published in 2020-2021, and clearly, flexibility is the keyword of the post-covid work. 

Coworking spaces traditionally offer less strict contracts than traditional offices, are adaptable, and offer a plethora of attractive services in their packages. For example, 86% of respondents in a survey by CBRE believe flexible office space is crucial for their future real estate strategies. 

The trend is visible throughout the reports. Lease flexibility is highly desirable, and office buildings will dedicate spaces to coworkings. What’s more, 54.9% of remote workers that didn’t use coworking before will consider it now. 

While the workers can’t wait for the forced home office to end, it would be a shame not to take the lessons learned with us. The expectations of post-covid employees make sense, and the offices of the future certainly need a new direction. 

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