With the hybrid workforce genie now fully out of the bottle, firms are gearing up for mixed-mode working. But research has revealed that not only are employees cautious about returning to the office full time, but a lack of planning and investment in hybrid working is threatening to derail the success of a widespread return to the office.
The research, conducted by Opinium for Ricoh Europe, polled 3,000 office workers across the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Fundamentally, the study highlighted the manifest importance of flexible hybrid working for organisations, yet just under one in five (19%) respondents said their workplace had a hybrid working policy in place.
At the same time, inadequate technology and collaborative working environments were said to be holding back the realisation of more accommodating and agile ways of working. Under half (45%) of respondents had seen an increase in meeting room communications technology to aid hybrid working, while almost one-in-four (23%) said the amount of collaboration space in their office had decreased.
In addition, less than a third (32%) believed there had been an increase in safe access to equipment, such as lockers for picking up IT equipment without having to meet a colleague face-to-face. This could, warned Ricoh, cause significant friction for employees seeking to return to the office, discouraging them from being present on a regular basis. If left unaddressed, workplace productivity could decline while top talent seeks more flexible employment.
At a time when demand for talent is at an all-time high, more than a third of workers (36%) indicated that they felt pressured to return to the office by their employer – an increase of 28% from a similar study conducted in 2020. Almost two-thirds (64%) believed it should be the individual’s choice to return to the office in 2022, reinforcing the requirement for senior leaders to balance employee preference with business need as they shape hybrid working policies.
Importantly, the survey also showed that trust between businesses and their workforce had improved throughout the course of the pandemic. Almost two-thirds (64%) of employees thought their employers were more confident in their ability to stay motivated and productive when working remotely – a 23% increase compared with a similar study in 2021.
“Providing the right collaboration tools to create a positive working experience for everyone, no matter where they are, is vital for employers as restrictions ease. Failure to do so risks creating an experience gap between those in the office and those working remotely,” said Ricoh Europe CEO David Mills.
“After two years of on again, off again restrictions, the world of work continues to evolve. Employees are rightfully looking to their employers to lead this change at work. The research shows that employers have come a long way in building trust with their workforce. Creating a workplace that truly embraces hybrid working is the next vital step in the journey,” he said.
“While there are many benefits of having people work together in the same room, hybrid working will be here for the foreseeable future. Investing in hybrid working now is an investment in the future – it will improve productivity and help with talent retention.”