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Hybrid working: the future is flexible

Feb 10, 2022

From our Thought Leader Contributor, EY

Companies and their employees are in the midst of recalibrating how and where work is done and managing the implications of these shifts.

Results from the EY Work Reimagined Survey 2021, show that almost four of five (79%) employers plan to make moderate to extensive changes to allow for more hybrid working. They are pushing at an open door because 90% of employees responding to the same survey are looking for greater flexibility in when and where they work.

These results also reflect insights from the EY Future Workplace Index 2021 in which 87% of employers say the pandemic has permanently changed the needs of the physical office.[1] The immediate implications of hybrid working have focused on the physical office: 75% of companies anticipate having no central office location moving forward, and 84% of companies are adjusting their plans for real estate use. Increasing investment in technology both in the office and in the cloud are priorities, as are the need to focus on the office as a collaborative space, promoting creativity.

At the same time, employers are moving on from real estate changes to the implications for working processes and policies. According to the EY Future Workplace Index survey, employers are seeing two clear business benefits from this new way of working. First, 57% of respondents report increases in productivity as employers have found ways to enhance output using different working models. Second, employers are benefitting from employees’ improved culture and personal well-being.

That said, there are some warning signs of potential pitfalls to avoid: for example, evidence of increased levels of employee stress can be addressed by managers consistently scheduling in-office time to foster collaboration and mentoring.

While employers and employees align, albeit at slightly different levels, on the benefits of at least some remote working, only 40% of employers are communicating clear policies on hybrid working.

This is because, as shown in the EY Future Workplace Index 2021, employers are grappling with new challenges.[2] In particular, they are concerned about fairness and equity, or ensuring there is no “them and us” between remote and in-office employees; retention of talent, as the ties that bound employees to the company loosen; maintaining culture, creativity and collaboration in more fragmented working patterns.

“Leaders are looking for hybrid frameworks to help navigate these challenges,” says Francisco J. Acoba, Principal, EY Americas Corporate Real Estate Consulting, Ernst & Young LLP. “But there is no one-size-fits all solution. Transforming the workplace into a destination will require focus and proactive engagement on the part of corporate occupiers and owners or landlords.”

While employers scramble to create effective policies and plans, they are in danger of losing talent. In the absence of clear guidance, employees are all too quick to seek alternative employment where hybrid working is clearly supported. “Employees don’t want to work in an ambiguous environment, and talent retention and attraction is on the line,” says Mark Grinis, EY Global Real Estate, Hospitality & Construction Leader. Employers who lag behind their peers in integrating flexible working into their work standards risk losing competitive edge in a tight labor market.

By harnessing collaborative technologies, using physical space creatively and setting clear policies that are fair to all, employers can set new precedents that increase productivity for the company and improve the workplace experience for their employees. The future is flexible, and it’s here.

Read the full “How can your workplace be as flexible as your workforce?” report here. (You will need to log into the CoreNet Global website to access the report.)

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.


[1] https://www.ey.com/en_us/real-estate-hospitality-construction/ey-survey-on-future-workplace-index

[2] https://www.ey.com/en_us/news/2021/10/first-ey-future-workplace-index-proves-hybrid-is-here-to-stay-and-the-conventional-model-is-dead

Hybrid Thought Leader
CoreNet Global