The future of work is hybrid – here’s what that will look like

A new study reveals employee and C-suite perceptions of the hybrid workplace model

It’s been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, forcing millions of people around the globe to work from home and creating a new normal that has permanently upended the world of work. Many employees have enjoyed the benefits of remote work. However, workers have experienced drawbacks as well – distractions at home, a lack of face time with colleagues, diminished work-life balance and a tendency to work more hours.

As more people get vaccinated and we begin to round the corner on the pandemic, employees and companies are looking ahead at what will come next. And this is where a hybrid model comes in. In a hybrid workplace model, employees have the ability to work in different spaces, including corporate offices, coworking spaces, public spaces and from home. 

To find out more about how the future of work will be shaped by a hybrid approach, WeWork partnered with independent research company Workplace Intelligence to conduct a blind survey of 1,000 C-suite and 1,000 non-C-suite employees. The survey examined the benefits, drawbacks and requirements of the hybrid model, its financial implications, how it relates to corporate property strategy, and employee and C-suite perceptions of it. 

Click here to read the study and see why employees and C-suite prefer the hybrid model.

The results revealed that most workers expect to continue working from home at least a few days a week, and businesses intend to support this arrangement because productivity has generally not declined due to remote working. However, people also desperately want to have spaces outside of their home to work from, and companies recognise this need. 

Perhaps most importantly, we learned that when employees gain the flexibility they yearn for, their companies benefit from higher productivity, engagement and loyalty. Employees’ desire for greater control, flexibility and freedom in where and when they work is at the very core of hybrid. It may have taken a pandemic to reveal that giving workers what they want is actually beneficial for the bottom line – but now that companies have taken the leap, the future of work is bright. And the future is hybrid. 

Key findings

  • 64% of employees would pay for access to an office space, and 75% would give up at least one benefit or perk for the freedom to choose their work environment.
  • 79% of the C-Suite plan to let their employees split their time between corporate offices and remote working, if their job allows for it. 76% say they’re likely to give their employees a stipend to work from home or a coworking space.
  • Post-Covid, employees want to split their time between their company HQ, home and other locations such as satellite offices, coworking spaces, and public ‘third spaces’ like a library or café. But employees who are more satisfied and engaged at work want to spend twice as much time in these ‘other locations’, compared to their less satisfied and less engaged colleagues.

A hybrid approach is linked to better workplace outcomes

After the pandemic, most employees say they want to work from home more often – but highly satisfied and engaged employees want to spend much more time at locations outside of their company HQ (37%), and much less time at home (27%) than their less-engaged peers. Workers with low satisfaction and engagement want to spend just 17% of their time at other locations and 46% of their time at home.

WeWork 1460 Mission St in San Francisco.

For employers, the message is clear: employees who report high levels of positive work-related sentiments have had access to hybrid arrangements for some time. But after the pandemic, people’s desire for hybrid will increase – and employers who don’t offer hybrid options will be missing out on an opportunity to improve key business outcomes. For example, Gallup finds that companies with a high level of engagement report 22% higher profitability, 21% higher productivity and up to 65% less turnover.  

The value of flexibility

One of the most surprising findings from the survey is that employees want flexibility so much that they’d be willing to give up some of the most valuable benefits and perks they receive from their employer. In fact, 75% would give up at least one benefit or perk, including healthcare coverage, cash bonuses and paid time off, for the freedom to choose their work environment.  

A closer look at the data reveals that between 20 to 25% of employees would be willing to sacrifice each individual benefit or perk. But when you consider that over 1 in 4 workers would give up cash bonuses or healthcare benefits – which are very real, tangible benefits – in exchange for the freedom to choose their work environment, it’s apparent that these findings are in fact quite astounding. And they underscore the immense value that employees place on having flexibility in how and where they work. 

The value of office space     

At the core of a hybrid model is the ability for employees to combine working from home with working from an office or another location. The employees we surveyed cited a number of benefits of a physical office space, including the ability to focus and collaborate. Indeed, respondents highlighted multiple ways in which the office supports interactions with colleagues and clients – a key aspect of our day-to-day work lives that many people have missed during the pandemic.

Rendering by WeWork.

What was most remarkable is that employees find office space so valuable that nearly two-thirds (64%) said they would be willing to pay for it out of their own pockets. Not surprisingly, this percentage is higher (80%) among employees in the highest income bracket (those earning more than $200,000 per year). However, even among those in the lowest income bracket (earning $30,000 to $60,000 per year), 49% say they would pay some amount of their own money for access to office space. 

The future of work is hybrid

As we emerge from an unprecedented year of change and challenges, it’s clear that work as we know it has been forever transformed. Remote work has proven to be overwhelmingly successful; however, there are numerous benefits provided by offices and other locations that simply can’t be replicated in the home environment. There’s no question that a hybrid approach will be the way forward for the vast majority of companies – it offers the flexibility and freedom that workers want, and benefits businesses too. Now it’s up to companies to pave the way, by offering the right spaces, tools and resources to help employees be successful.  

Click here to see all the results from the national study.

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