Reimagining work around the world: new survey

With the workplace in flux, EY’s ‘2022 Work Reimagined Survey’ shows what matters to employees. Leaders can lean into the opportunities and build workplaces that will attract, recruit and retain people.

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Of particular note in EY's wide-ranging 2022 Work Reimagined Survey, which looks at employer perceptions as well as employee aspirations, is the mismatch between employees’ keenness to restart business travel and their employers' plans.For 33% of the 1,575 organisations from 22 countries and 26 industries surveyed, employers are planning for travel to return to or increase moderately to pre-pandemic levels.Yet well over double that percentage of the 17,000 employees canvassed responded positively (76%) on whether they would like the “same amount or more business travel compared to pre-covid”. The figures correlate with a recent white paper published by American Express Global Business Travel, which spotlights the importance of face-to-face meetings and business travel for positive engagement and workplace cultures. 
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The Great Workplace Return?

While employees are keen to go away and travel on business, they are looking less favourably on a full-time return to the office. Four in five employees around the world want to work at least two days remotely per week. This year, only a fifth voiced reluctance toward fully remote working, compared to 34% last year. In an interesting finding for employers based in large conurbations around the world, 40% of people with a 30-minute or less commute were significantly more likely to be open to working fully in person in the office. The figure falls significantly to a quarter when commutes extend to 30 minutes and beyond.Whether or not employers are receiving these clear messages or responding effectively is an open question. When asked about their organisation’s commitment to providing flexibility around when and where people work, more employers (78%) than employees (67%) felt this was the case.And when it comes to promoting hybrid work to attract and retain talent at a time when some element of hybrid working is a clear factor in talent management, just 49% of employees agreed with this statement compared to 75% of employers. This suggests that employers struggling with skills shortages may do well to raise the profile of their efforts in this area, for example through campaigns such as Flex From 1st, offer different forms of flexible working and via line managers.

Back to the future?

Other areas where employers are out of step with employees is on the question of whether productivity has improved since the beginning of the pandemic (41% versus 64% respectively) and whether organisational culture has improved since the pandemic (40% versus 61% respectively).It seems that leaders are keen to get back to a pre-pandemic normal, while employees are happier with pandemic-induced workplace changes.However, pay is one area where employers and employees are more closely aligned. Around four in five (79%) of employees are looking for opportunities to increase total pay. Employers (83%) agree that the pandemic has accelerated a need for extensive changes to a rewards policy, including compensation, wellbeing, flexible benefits, time off and personal development.Yet meeting both business and employee needs is likely to be another balancing act, despite some shared priorities.When asked what three factors would be decisive in accepting another job offer, employees responded with:
  1. higher pay (35%)
  2. flexible working (32%)
  3. better career opportunities (25%).  
On this issue, employers were asked what three factors will ensure employees thrive in a new work experience. The top answers were:
  1. learning and skills (37%)
  2. flexible working (36%)
  3. investment in employee wellbeing (32%).
“The focus on learning and skills by employers could be a reaction to The Great Resignation,” says EY. “If turnover is high and employers show less confidence in productivity gains made through the pandemic, then an employer may be more likely to invest in upskilling the remaining workforce.“This positioning from employers may also align with the needs and expectations of a subset of employees more likely to be company-committed. These individuals are more likely to be concerned about the risks of burnout and their mental wellbeing, more likely to work full-time in an office and have a more favourable view of work-life balance.”

Wellbeing at work

If this is the case, it reinforces the view that employers could benefit from being more inclusive and valuing diversity and equity (DEI), especially from the vantage point of wellbeing.As well as delineating the data by employer and employee, EY broke the figures down for age, role, gender, industry, ethnicity and country. Among the key findings here are that across the whole sample, men report higher levels of wellbeing (59%) due to new ways of working introduced by the pandemic, compared to 17% who saw their wellbeing decline. For women, four in ten saw improvement, while 29% saw a decline. This bears out studies carried out by consultancies like McKinsey, as reported by Relocate Global's Think Global People magazine. Generation Z and Millennials were also more likely to look for new work, according to the EY survey.  Interestingly from the perspective of perceptions of productivity and willingness to return to the office, those working in executive leadership (66%) and technology (65%) benefited most from the wellbeing effect. Those seeing the fewest benefits were people working in customer service (32%), administration or general staff (36%), operations or logistics (38%). These are likely front-line occupations among the large minority of jobs where remote working is not an option for operational purposes and where people still had to go to a physical workplace throughout lockdowns. Around three in ten of these three groups saw their wellbeing decline – the largest decline among the 11 occupational groups. By country/region, more people in India (75%), the Middle East (70%) and Indonesia (70%) experienced positive impacts from changed ways of working compared to Scandinavia (32%), Japan (29%) and New Zealand (29%). 

Accentuating agility

The ability to be agile in response to and pre-empting change is one of the key success factors for organisations and individuals in this age of uncertainty. EY notes that optimistic employers – those that have been “proactive in their approach to flexible work, real estate and technology” – are more likely to agree they’ve seen positive outcomes.Concluding its report, EY says: “Work has been reimagined by employees and employers, but their visions don’t always align. Both see flexibility and hybrid work as the new normal, though further details reveal divisions. Employees are still willing to leave their jobs to advance their career and pay potential."For employers and employees alike, international remote working and distributed workforces are attractive options or already established. However, embedding these successfully still means paying attention to culture, rewards and benefits.“Global uncertainty connected to inflation and labour costs are fuelling reluctance among employers who are not eager to reset pay and career opportunities," continues EY. "If companies don’t address pay equity between internal and external labour markets, then efforts toward improving culture, productivity and DE&I will be neutralised by turnover."By acting with intentionality, leaders can build trust and orient their organisations toward an optimistic future.”

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