85% Indians prefer hybrid model over WFH: Survey

The pandemic has caused 39% Indians to pay more attention to their health and 33% to improve their focus

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The year 2020 took a toll on working professionals and businesses around the world, in terms of productivity, innovation and engagement. While remote working did become the trend, a recent survey by Steelcase shows that not everyone prefers a permanent work-from-home model of working. In fact, in India the majority of leaders were expecting a more hybrid model of work for their teams in the post-pandemic times.

The report reveals that India is one of the top markets where maximums professionals (85 per cent) are willing to adopt the hybrid model. Only 12 per cent of those surveyed said they would resume the in-office-heavy work model. An overwhelming 90 per cent leaders expect to give employees greater choice and control over where they want to work from.

The survey covered 10 countries, with over 32,000 participants, including employees, business leaders and real-estate decision makers representing millions of workers.

Challenges of WFH

In the ‘Changing Expectations and the Future of Work’ report, respondents in India agreed that work-from-home (WFH) had its advantages as well as challenges. On an average, 41 per cent of employees globally were dissatisfied with their work-from-home situation, as it affected their level of engagement and productivity. In India, the overall engagement dipped by 16 per cent and there was a seven per cent dip in productivity.

Although people are looking forward to returning to the office, more Indians wish to work on their health and fitness (39 per cent) and about 33 per cent are now more focussed. However, on the flip side, 26.4 per cent were not satisfied with the WFH arrangement, as 24 per cent felt it brought on a sense of isolation and 21.7 per cent said it made their decision-making slower. A significant 20.4 per cent said it adversely affected the work-life balance.

Globally, only 23 per cent of those surveyed will return to working out of their offices full-time, whereas an overwhelming 72 per cent will embrace a hybrid working model, and only five per cent will continue to work from home, which is not much considering the fact that only about three per cent were willing to work from home before the pandemic.

Employees were desirous to return to the office because 61 per cent thought it offered a professional environment, 56 per cent said it gave them a chance to reconnect to the organisation and 49 per cent said it would help them connect with colleagues.

Priorities in post-COVID era

Safety is the topmost priority for workplaces, with 81 per cent respondents planning to focus on adhering to safety protocols, 80 per cent on air quality and 77 per cent on facility cleanliness.

The sense of belongingness that people were deprived of during the pandemic will become even more important. Some participants pointed out how productivity will increase when people are physically present in the office, are able to read the body language of their colleagues and more alert and reactive.

Participants of the study also brought up the issue of ergonomic comfort, which was missing with the WFH arrangement. Most seek the comfort of an ergonomic setup in the office.

While 54 per cent sought flexibility to reconfigure their office furniture, only 38 per cent are in a position to do so. Employees are desirous of exercising more control over a flexible and relaxed office environment and go beyond boundaries

While WFH dominated for most of 2020, employees and employers are eager to return to the office even amid the ongoing public health concerns because the office plays a vital role in employees’ social lives in addition to home-working situations being less than ideal.”

He pointed out that “Organisations will need to adapt and realign their business priorities to provide safe and flexible work environments to their employees.”

Steelcase, which has been helping to create better work experiences through their architecture, furniture and technology products and services, has been investing in research to help organisations understand what is really happening to their workforce and the impact it is having on their business.

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