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29% of executives agree that employees should work from home 2 days a week

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After a year of large-scale remote work, the business world is re-imaging the office of the future. Most companies seem headed toward a hybrid workplace post-pandemic, one in which employees rotate in and out of offices while working remotely the rest of the time.

In November and December 2020, PwC surveyed both executives and employees on the topic of remote work. The study, US Remote Work Survey, included 133 US executives from three different sectors: financial services; technology, media and telecommunications; and retail and consumer products. Eighty-three percent of those executives were from companies with annual revenues of more than $1 billion. PwC also surveyed 1,200 US office workers from various industries during that same period.

They found almost all companies plan to support 50% of their workers on-site by the end of 2021. They also found that many knowledge workers have moved from New York and California to less-expensive areas, such as Raleigh, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas.

Here’s what else they learned:

1. Remote work has been a great success 

Eighty-three percent of employers and 71% of employees say remote work is successful. And compared to a June 2020 survey, employees said they are even more productive now. Their bosses agree. 

The survey found that companies took specific actions to help their workforces perform more effectively. The action ranked as most successful (by 79% of employee respondents) was allowing workers the flexibility to manage family matters.

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The largest gap between employers’ and employees’ perceptions of a company’s success in supporting remote work had to do with childcare. While just 45% of employees said their company was successful in extending benefits for childcare, 81% of employers thought their company was successful in that area. Women (41%) were less happy with childcare measures than men (49%).

In the future, with remote work in mind, US executives plan to invest the most in: 

2. Employers expect workers back in the office sooner than employees want to return

There’s an interesting dichotomy in when employers and employees expect to see offices fill up again. Seventy-five percent of employers expect at least half their workforce back on-site by July 2021, whereas only 61% of office workers want the same. 

It’s hard to plan a return to the office because there are still unpredictable variables:

3. Employers and employees differ on the best balance of workdays in office vs remote

Sixty-eight percent of executives think that people should be back in the office at least three days per week once the pandemic has passed. However, 55% of employees would like to be remote three days or more each week. Twenty-nine percent would like to be remote five days per week.

One thing we’ve learned from the unusual circumstances this past year is that employees like flexibility.

PwC says it’s critical to specify who needs to be in the office and why. What happens at the office, is it valuable enough to keep employees coming in, and does your current configuration meet expectations to use the office primarily as a meeting place?

A majority of employers (32%) said that as business performance is not suffering, the company will likely increase the number of employees working remotely.

Here’s how employers say performance is going under remote work:

4. The least experienced employees need the office most

Those with the least amount of professional experience (0–5 years) are more interested in returning to the office. Thirty percent want only one day of remote working per week, whereas only 20% of respondents agree. This group also reports feeling less productive (34%) than more experienced colleagues (23%). 

5. What employers consider the most important reasons to have a physical office

6. What employees consider the most important reasons to have a physical office

7. PwC also asked executives about changes to their real estate strategies in the next 12 months

Interestingly, it’s not only locations but also workplace design that’s in transition. Some execs say they’ll need more square feet per employee over the next three years both due to more employees and social distancing needs. Fifty-six percent say they plan to increase space by between 5% and more than 25%.

We are clearly in a transitionary business era. Executives should understand how the work gets done to complete company goals, where it will happen, and the best ways to support their employees throughout these changing times.

Originally published Mar 04, 2021, updated Mar 08, 2021

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