COVID-19 dramatically changed the way we work. But as vaccination rates rise and societal norms return, should we expect a return to the workplace or a continuation of remote working?
We recently surveyed 649 members of the IT community to learn about their organisations’ operating model and workplace policies heading into 2022.
Just as work from home became the norm in 2020 and 2021, most of our customers across Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and India expect remote working to continue as a vital part of their operating model in 2022. Just 6.5% of survey respondents expect to be back at the office five days a week. This aligns with Gartner’s research which found that only 1% of large global organisations expect all of their employees to return to working full-time in the office.
Of the remaining 93.5%, 21.6% stated that they will continue to work remotely full-time. Meanwhile, 46.9% will follow a hybrid model with a percentage in the office at a given time, and 21.7% will benefit from fully flexible working. A global survey by World Economic Forum found that 39% work mostly from home and 22% work outside their homes but not in an office, while the McKinsey Global Institute found that 20 to 25% of the workforce expects to work flexibly from home three to five days a week.
Fig 1. Results to the question, "what working model do you anticipate for your organisation in 2022?"
There is little doubt that the work from home revolution has provided more options for employers and employees alike. However, as people increasingly vaccinate against COVID-19, organisations are now forming policies around their workplaces to ensure safety for employees that are coming in for the purpose of collaboration, planning, development, orientation, or completing their BAU work.
Vaccination policies and office work
With vaccines now widely available in most countries, people are now able to better protect themselves, their families, and the wider community against COVID-19. While many have voluntarily taken the vaccine, some have been reluctant due to a temporary medical issue, genuine exemption, or philosophical reasons.
58% of respondents in our survey said that full vaccination would be a requirement for working in the office. This is either because of government regulation making vaccination compulsory, or because the organisation has decided unvaccinated employees will present additional health risks to employees and patrons.
Fig 2. Results to the question, "will your company require people working in your offices to be fully vaccinated?"
Even though most employees may be on board with their employer’s COVID-19 vaccination policy, that doesn’t mean the decision to mandate vaccination for on-site and frontline employees has been easy. For the few workers who cannot or do not want to be vaccinated, it requires the company to find ways to navigate the complexity.
The topic of vaccine mandates is requiring human resources and people managers to make some of the toughest decisions of their careers. It is also requiring businesses to draw up comprehensive policies that consider whether frontline employees and visitors need both doses before they can interact with the business in person.
At the other end of the scale, 13% of respondents said their vaccination status will not affect their time in office, with a portion owing to a fully remote working model moving forward. Meanwhile, 29% of survey respondents are not sure yet whether they will need to be fully vaccinated and show proof to work in the office.
The future of work post-pandemic
Flexibility in work has long been a desired option by employees, but the “work from the office” culture was deeply ingrained for many organisations.
Organisations that were long sceptical about work from home are now changing their minds after seeing company productivity continue at the same level (67%) or higher (27%) during the pandemic. Over 40% of workers also reported that they were more productive working remotely than in the office, increasing their innovation by as much as 63%, engagement by 75%, commitment by 68%, and inclusion by 93%.
The sudden response by organisations to the pandemic meant that employees were either asked to partly or fully work from home. But with government restrictions lifting and the majority now fully vaccinated, the above survey data shows that this is slowly changing to a hybrid approach - one that is increasingly becoming preferred by both employers and employees themselves.
In the end, it will be up to each company to decide how flexible their work arrangements are and what policies to adopt to support them. One thing that is certain is that change has begun, and what we consider our workplace today will continue to evolve in the years to come.