« There’s a great opportunity to begin to explore how we create an environment that is safe for people who want to be flexible vs. fighting that change »
PETER YOBO, PRINCIPAL, PWC
The rapid adoption of remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed business by redefining the concept of the workplace. Where we work, when we work, what our «status» at work is, has grown much more flexible than before.
Work from anywhere, anytime
While only 9% of employees were working from home in 2020, this figure grew to 37% in April 2020. Two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is obvious that remote work is here to stay. Managers have noticed an increase in productivity, and employees have enjoyed a better quality of life with more freedom. Remote work is working, pushing companies to explore hybrid models, where employees can work in- or out-of–office.
This means that the workplace is becoming a more complex and flexible ecosystem (office/home/coworking places) supported by a hybrid mix of digital and physical experiences. This new trend implies that the notion of having to work in a fixed, central location, is often costly and under-utilized, is being eroded.
Workers on demand
By enabling employees to work together at a distance, remote work makes it easier to collaborate with professionals outside the firm. As a result, companies increase their willingness to use on-demand workers. Freelancing is the fastest-growing segment of the European labor market, with a 39% increase in the number of registrants on Malt (a leading freelancing platform) last year. This reflects the blurring of borders for organisations between internal and external sources of labour.
of European business leaders reported that hybrid working makes companies more profitable.
(Source: Owl Lab, State of hybrid work in Europe Report 2021)
3 in 4
hiring managers will increase their engagements with independent talent in the next 6 months.
(Source: Upwork Future workplace report 2021, US)
The coworking space market size is expected to grow from $16.17 billion in 2022 to $30.36 billion in 2026 at an annual growth rate of 17%.
(Source: Coworking Space Global Market Report 2022, worldwide)
As a result of the pandemic, more than half (53%) of businesses say that remote work has increased their willingness to use freelancers. (Source: Upwork Future workplace report 2020, US)
OPPORTUNITIES & CHALLENGES
Embracing a hybrid work model
The work-from-home experiment precipitated by COVID-19 has clearly revealed the struggles and benefits of remote work for workers. For the worker, remote work increases flexibility, improves focus, yields positive financial outcomes and saves time previously spent commuting. On the other hand, it also creates challenges: the difference between the personal and professional spheres can be eroded, social connections are lost and isolation can grow. One out of two individuals report that they feel lonely for a minimum of 1 day a week, while 25% said ‘‘switching off’’ after work is their biggest challenge.
Everyone must become an entrepreneur to survive
The growth of a more transactional and project-based approach to work creates opportunities for workers who can adapt to this new reality. They have more freedom to build a career, to explore new opportunities and to work on their own. However, it also creates new risks as competition is becoming global, skills are more rapidly wearing out and strong, social safety nets are harder to maintain. This means that new workers will need to become more entrepreneurial and manage their own career throughout their lives. Clearly, this is not going to be possible for everyone, so we can expect to see increased risks of social tension and exclusion for those who are left behind because they do not possess the necessary social, economic or cultural capital
Don't forget those who cannot go remote
“Deskless” workers—those who need to be physically present to do their jobs—do not have the option to work remotely. People working in factories, shops and service industries and researchers in the field often have no flexibility to change their hours. By highlighting the gap between desk and deskless workers, the pandemic has generated a massive desire to resign, with workers citing lack of flexibility and work-life balance as the main reasons. Moreover, many organisations struggle to communicate efficiently with their workers. 80% of frontline workers do not even have a corporate email address, and more than 40% do not have access to the company’s intranet while at work. Consequently, they can feel disconnected and disengaged.
of the global workforce is deskless.
(Source: desklessworkforce, 2022)
of deskless workers want to quit their job in the next 6 months.
(Source: BCG, why deskless workers are leaving worldwide, 2022)
For companies, remote work is an opportunity to reduce costs related to office spaces, gain access to talent far beyond their local area, and increase their workers’ productivity by 77%. However, fostering a sense of belonging and maintaining good communication and collaboration can be difficult. Cybersecurity also becomes a rising concern as a scattered workforce could lead to more opportunities for hackers. As a result, 89 % of European companies favour a hybrid work model post-pandemic, leveraging the best of both the office and work-from-home worlds.
Adapting the workplace to hybrid
Companies are adapting their work infrastructure to enable employees to collaborate effectively whether they are in or out-of-office. Technology is a center piece: 70% of companies are investing in IT infrastructure to support hybrid work. Communication and collaboration software are widely used, representing a market worth over $19B in 2021. Conference and event room equipment is evolving to enable effective remote participation using high-quality meeting hardware and interactive whiteboards.
Companies are investing in home office equipment for their employees. In France, 52% of companies will equip their teams with IT equipment in 2022 to facilitate hybrid work.
Finally, office design is changing. Desk sharing, which allows the number of workstations to be halved, is becoming the norm. The need for convivial spaces, modular pods and small conference rooms will increase to meet new demands. Consequently, the implementation tools, such as Integrated Workspace Management System, desk booking, and digital concierge services optimising user experience and space optimization will increase.
Re-wiring HR to service ‘hybrid workers’
The hybridisation of the workforce in terms of ‘status, location and time zones is driving companies to rethink HR. Processes will need to be redesigned to onboard new employees remotely, address the lack of informal conversations and handle with potential conflicts. Managers will need to be trained to improve their practices to enable greater autonomy, listening and flexibility.
Furthermore, fostering a common culture will become essential to maximise motivation and performance in the long term. Whilst in the past this was achieved through physical interaction, new processes and rituals will need to be devised.
Finally, supporting people who may have difficulty adapting to these new ways of working (parents, young employees, people who are not digitally fluent.) is essential to make the hybrid workplace work. These new challenges are inspiring a new ecosystem of entrepreneurs offering digital tools for remote companies.