Back to the office in the hybrid model: employers' strategies versus the needs and expectations of employees

What kind of work model will be optimal for a given organization? What to do if we want to encourage employees to work from the office? Many organizations, including in the sector of modern business services, ask themselves such questions. When looking for answers, it is worth referring to the latest market data, trends and case studies from the market that may help determine the direction to take. Skanska’s office development unit conducted a research in cooperation with research company Zymetria, the results of which provide information useful in finding the answers to these questions.

50/50 - a new trend in hybrid work

In the modern business services sector, a hybrid work model combining work from the office with work from other locations (e.g. from home) is a concept that has been known for years. Long before the outbreak of the pandemic, employees of business service centres working in areas where there were no contraindications for doing so (e.g. related to access to protected data or the need to work in the office resulting from customer needs) used the option of choosing the location of work. The pandemic has made this approach more widespread. At the same time, in order to create a comfortable working environment, many companies from this sector have invested in renting modern office spaces in well-connected locations and responding to the various needs of employees. Moreover, both employers and employees have learned about the advantages and disadvantages of remote work, incl. limited team building, engagement fostering or effective collaboration opportunities of in this model. In a situation where it seems that the worst of the pandemic are behind us, employers face the challenge of creating a work model that, on the one hand, will allow employees to choose the place from which they want to work, and on the other, will keep the office moving and allow for effective teamwork and building a sense of belonging. The answer to this is a hybrid model. A research conducted by research company Zymetria for Skanska’s office development unit shows that over 50% of Polish office workers from large cities are currently working in a hybrid model. This is 20% more compared to the results from May last year, when 32% of respondents worked in this model. It is also the most preferred one - as much as 70% of respondents would like to work this way. In turn, the number of people working only remotely fell year on year - from 16% up to 8%. The new trend in the organization of hybrid work is also becoming clearer, namely the 50/50 format, i.e. working one week in the office and one week at home. And finally: 9 out of 10 Polish office workers believe that traditional office is irreplaceable. This is good news for companies that have invested in new office spaces.

Hybrid workers are the happiest

According to the results of the aforementioned research, hybrid employees are most satisfied with their current work model - as indicated by 95% of respondents. According to the respondents, working from the office is perceived as more productive and allows for building relationships with other employees, as well as with the company itself. Even hybrid employees, used to working partially from a location other than the office, perceive remote work as more difficult to organize - as much as 80% of them believe that a home office does not increase their efficiency and does not help them to complete their tasks faster. Changing the environment and being with the team positively stimulates employees. The vast majority of employees, regardless of age, especially appreciate the ability of interacting with other people, building relationships with colleagues, but also cultivating ties with the organization in which they work. The office facilitates this thanks to common spaces and activities taking place in the office, which strengthen the team spirit (e.g. trainings or "face to face" meetings, such as "town halls").

The hybrid model becomes even more attractive for respondents who are parents. They demonstrated particular interest - against the background of childless respondents - in the week in the office / week at home model. Childless individuals, on the other hand, more often work only from home - they constitute as much as 20% in the group of employees who do not work from the office at all.

It is worth paying attention to the generation-related differences in the perception of hybrid work. According to the research, younger office workers want to spend less time in the office compared to their older colleagues, which can be a challenge in the context of hybrid work planning in a given organization.

- The analysis of the responses to the survey we conducted among office workers shows that most of them have managed to experience the advantages and disadvantages of remote work and have come to the conclusion that they now prefer the combination of working from home and office. Importantly, no one is questioning the legitimacy of working in the office anymore, which was questioned at the beginning of the pandemic. Office space is the foundation of healthy functioning of the company, both in the eyes of employees and employers. We will not experience significant changes in this regard in the near future. The growing popularity of hybrid work in companies operating in Poland is evident, hence it seems that it is crucial to understand the most optimal shape of a hybrid model in specific organizations - comments Ewelina Kałużna, Head of Strategic Workplace Solution Advisory at Skanska commercial development business unit in CEE and Managing Director of Business Link.

Conclusions for employers

1. Identify the specific needs of your employees and adapt the office space to meet them

Every organization on the market is different. Even if they operate within the same industry - such as, for example, companies from the modern business services sector - they differ in the nature of the business, organizational culture, size, scale of operations or the nature of work in particular roles. Therefore, there is no single, universal hybrid model that will work in every organization.

What can support work in the hybrid model is creating conditions for employees to facilitate work in this model. The key tool to doing that effectively is an attractive office space that will meet their needs.

According to the research by Skanska and Zymetria, office quality is important when choosing a new employer for as many as 87% of office workers. Additionally, nearly one in four respondents declares that the location of the office may have an impact on their decision to accept or reject a job offer. This means that in a very competitive labor market, offices - that are part of the employee value proposition - will have to offer more than before. They should be better, more convenient and interesting than what we have at home in order to effectively compete with remote work. This includes providing various types of space depending on the needs of employees and the type of work they perform, such as a quiet place allowing for concentration, areas for creative work or spending time with the team.

2. Embed “an office employee does not live by work alone” rule in your workplace strategy

Employers need to take into account that the needs of people who spend several days in the office are different than of those who work there occasionally (e.g. only one day a week). Working from the office several days in a row, an employee expects special types of initiatives or those related to leisure .

Many employers understood this before the pandemic, ensuring that the office was both a place for performing job-related tasks, as well as for rest or integration. These efforts were intensified after the pandemic, when employers, seeing the negative effects of isolation (such as psychological deterioration, declining teamwork results or decreased employee engagement) began to implement new initiatives encouraging employees to spend time together in the office. Respondents of the Skanska and Zymetria’s survey indicated that the most frequently organized initiatives included seasonal and integration get-togethers, charity and employee volunteering activities, and free snacks and meals. In the opinion of the respondents to this survey, massages, sports activities and joint watching of sports/entertainment events are the least frequently organized in offices. Interestingly, as many as 18% of the survey participants admitted that their employer did not offer any initiatives encouraging them to use the office. . Free snacks (35%) are among the most appreciated by employees. Massages (31%), modern space (30%), a separate space for relaxation (29%) and the organization of informal integration meetings (28%) are also highly rated.

The least popular are additional sports-related activities (including watching sporting matches together), as well as top-down, large meetings with the participation of all employees in the company.

What can companies learn from this? Employees will have a positive attitude to work from the office and will work from there more out of their own need and willingness, and not forced. Location, office quality and benefits are of great importance in this context, but there is no substitute for listening to people's needs and flexible adjustment of working conditions to each group of employees.

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