Back to the office? Workers want more flexibility, but worry their bosses aren't ready

Research from Sony suggests that workers aren't confident in their employer's preparedness for a long-term shift to flexible working, with many still lacking support while working from home.

woman remote worker

Are businesses prepared to support their new hybrid workforce?

Image: iStock/BartekSzewczyk

Employees seem to have largely embraced the idea of a more flexible-working pattern in future, though the same perhaps can't be said for businesses.

According to a new study by Sony, only one in five UK office workers think their employers are fully prepared to support a long-term shift towards a hybrid-working model that offers a combination of at-home and office-based working.

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In two surveys conducted in December 2020 and January 2021 respectively, which each targeted 1,000 UK office workers, 72%of respondents said they expected to work remotely at least one day a week once offices reopened. Sixty-five per cent of respondents said they expected to work remotely at least two days a week.

Despite this, the survey suggests workers are sceptical about employers' readiness to adapt to new ways of working prompted by COVID-19. More than half (51%) of respondents felt that their employer could have done more to support remote working since the first UK lockdown in March, with just 30% saying they felt fully supported with their home set-up.

Sony highlighted this as an area for improvement. "The home office is clearly here to stay, but it has a long way to go to be optimised for productivity, for health, for companies being able to monitor employee work [and] to improve collaboration," the company said.

Studies into attitudes towards remote working suggest employees see it as the new way of doing things. In fact, some indicate that workers won't accept anything but flexible-working arrangements in the post-pandemic landscape.

Sony's research indicated that it was largely younger workers driving this shift: 75% of 18-24-year-olds said they expected to work from home at least two days or more per week in future, despite being more likely than older age groups to lack dedicated office space.

Just 13% of 18-24-year-olds said they expected to ever return to work full-time, compared to over half (51%) of 35-54-year-olds who respondent to Sony's survey.

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

As to when offices will finally re-open, employees' expectations continue to shift. Over a third (35%) of survey respondents felt they wouldn't return until either the second half of the year, or 2022 at the earliest. This is compared to 20% who felt this way when quizzed by Sony in December.

Carl Standertskjold, corporate segment marketing manager at Sony, said businesses needed to start thinking how they could adapt their offices to fit future expectations, which includes workplaces optimized for virtual and physical collaboration, and an emphasis on social spaces.

"The global pandemic has dramatically changed how people work and how they feel about going back to offices, where there is a clear call for employers to think more effectively about how they can adapt and support a hybrid workforce, longer-term," said Standertskjold.

"While everyone has been working from home, we've been working hard to develop new technology that will help both employers and employees to feel confident about this new hybrid work environment, which will be fundamental in a post-COVID world."

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