Survey finds that globally most people prefer flexible work option post pandemic

Published : July 27, 2021 20:30 IST

The work-from-home reality for many professionals during the pandemic. Survey results show employees would prefer a hybrid model once offices open. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Even as offices urge their employees to get vaccinated to return to office, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have permanently changed the future of work spaces. In a post-pandemic world, people’s preference is no longer to go back to office full-time, but rather continue working, remotely, from home.

A new survey shows that two-thirds of people around the world want to work flexibly when the pandemic is over. Almost a third are prepared to quit their job if their employer makes them go back to office full-time. The survey of workers shows people have coped better with work from home than was feared.

The survey, conducted by market-research company Ipsos in partnership with the World Economic Forum among 12,500 employees across 29 countries between May 21 and June 4 this year, found that a majority want flexible, hybrid working to become the norm. Almost a third (30 per cent) said they would consider looking for another job if they were forced to go back to office full-time.

The survey challenges a number of notions about the effects of remote working. Experts had warned that people would miss co-workers, be less productive and suffer from burnouts; the survey found these fears to be exaggerated. Just over a half of those surveyed were missing their colleagues, 64 per cent said they were more productive with a flexible work schedule, and only a third complained of burnout. Only one in three said they felt disengaged when working remotely.

A majority (66 per cent) said employers should allow more flexible working in the future. Support for more flexibility was strongest among women, parents of school-going children, adults under 35, and those with higher levels of education and income. The percentage demanding more flexible work spaces was roughly similar among people with children aged under 17 (68 per cent), and those with no children (63 per cent).

The survey showed that before the pandemic 24 per cent of the respondents worked mostly from home, globally. That has risen to almost two fifths (39 per cent), with a further 22 per cent working outside their homes but not in an office. Three quarters (76 per cent) of those now working from home say it is a consequence of COVID-19.

Organisations are mulling a hybrid work model. A new McKinsey survey of 100 executives across geographies and industries predicts that nine out of ten organisations will combine remote and on-site working in the post-pandemic world.

Even though a majority want to retain the work flexibility they’ve been given during the pandemic, many think it is inevitable that they will be back to the office eventually. Over a quarter of people (27 per cent) surveyed in the Ipsos study think it will happen within six months and a further 24 per cent within a year. But a third or more of workers in Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom do not expect the world of work to return to the way it was before the pandemic — a view shared by almost a fifth (18 per cent) of the global workforce.

While globally, only a quarter of people want to work in the office five days a week when the pandemic is over, in India, most people were enthusiastic about returning to office.

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