Employers around the world are finding that implementing a hybrid working setup — a combination of office and offsite working — is dynamic and not without imperfections. This is one of the key findings in the recent study from global specialist professional recruitment consultancy Robert Walters called The Symptoms of Dysfunction in Hybrid Working – Obstacles & Solutions.
The research shows that the longer professionals spent working from home, the more evident it is that there is a disconnect between employers and employees on what they viewed as the ultimate future of work settings. The hybrid working model has affected the employers’ ability to attract and retain good talent, provide the opportunity for employees to be innovative and ensure that productivity is maintained while people are working in a mixed setting.
Future of work debate
The Robert Walters Global Survey 2020 about the future of work, which included insights from employees, thought leaders and Robert Walters global leads to provide additional perspectives to employers and hiring managers worldwide, reveals early signs of the hybrid model dysfunction beginning to emerge. Eighty-five percent of employees expected more flexibility to work from home in the future while 60 percent of employers said productivity concerns could prevent them from allowing their employees to continue to work from home.
Fast forward to 2021, the latest data from Robert Walters revealed two in five professionals said they believed their current employer’s hybrid working arrangements could be improved and 78 percent said that they are more likely to join a prospective employer if they were offered hybrid working arrangements.
The same combined offsite and in-office setup seems to be a strong option in Southeast Asia and the Philippines, according to a Robert Walters survey conducted in late July 2021 of midlevel to senior professionals from various industries who shared key concerns if and when the traditional model of office working resumes. Thirty-three percent preferred working completely remote and the same percentage said that they would like to report to the office for two days at most.
These professionals see an in-office setup as providing more opportunities for more face-to-face meetings, collaborative working and social activities with colleagues. The separation of work from home is also anticipated to enhance focus on well-being, shorten the working week and enable earlier finish from work.
“Our survey shows the professionals’ dilemma whether to work from home, from the office or adopt a hybrid model. Employers need to provide opportunities for employees to be innovative and ensure that productivity is maintained. It is also important that they support their employees’ mental well-being, which is a significant factor in retaining talent,” shares Kimberlyn Lu, Country Manager of Robert Walters Philippines and Malaysia.
Impact of employee well-being on talent retention
The hybrid working research further shows that younger workers are finding it harder to stay connected with their employer’s culture and their colleagues. One solution offered by Robert Walters is for employers to maximise in-person and digital communication options, maintaining that the mental health and well-being of staff is key to business success.
In the Philippines, the survey reveals that 62 percent have been utilising videoconferencing apps such as Microsoft Teams and Skype as their primary communication channel with co-workers and the rest of their team. This is consistent with the South East Asia results of 63 percent.
The survey also demonstrates how prospective applicants value a company’s affiliations and value when declining or accepting a job offer. Fifty-eight percent of surveyed professionals would decline a job if a company’s value regarding mental health awareness is not in line with their own. Other values affecting their decisions pertain to worker rights, income gap, and racial and cultural matters.
“Talent retention is at its highest levels when employers invest time and effort in building and maintaining a workplace culture that prioritises social capital for employees. Of course, to attract and retain talent, employers have to meet the employees’ expectations. At the same time, they need to ensure a productive and innovative workplace. The Robert Walters hybrid working research offered solutions to help employers succeed in both worlds,” added Kim.
One of the solutions is upskilling managers. “Employees don’t quit jobs, they quit managers” as the adage goes. Equipping managers with formal trainings and techniques is the start of maintaining productivity and innovation among their hybrid teams.
Philippine data from Robert Walters’ 2021 survey sees 100 percent of surveyed respondents willing to retrain or learn a new skill in order to stay employable in the future. But issues such as financial cost and requirement to do this outside of office hours prevent them from doing so.
To be back in the office or not to be is the question for employers
Robert Walters’ research showed that the hybrid work model is not a one size fits all. In some sectors such as technology and transformation, professional services, management consultancies and in the financial services industry, employers opt to permanently adopt work-from-home practices for certain roles.
This mirrors Philippine data, with Filipino professionals listing location flexibility, absence of commute, cost efficiency, schedule flexibility and better work-life-balance as primary reasons for taking a fully remote role. Conversely, 52 percent said they would decline a job if it requires a near complete in-office attendance with 62 percent saying they will very unlikely decline a fully location-independent job.
Incidentally, when asked about the primary reasons preventing them to accept a fully remote position, respondents named wanting to have an option of coming into an office, wanting a work-life balance and needing a structure that comes from an office environment as their top choices.
“Through the lockdowns, we saw the emergence of more non-geo-specific roles or jobs that can be done regardless of where the employee is based. We expect this trend to continue post-lockdowns despite the drive from some corporate employers to get their people back in the office for at least two to three days a week,” shares Kim.
“What has worked for most employers is the ability to remain nimble and to keep an open mind regarding adopting a mixed working model for the future that supports business objectives and the need for maintaining high levels of productivity and innovation while collaborating with employees to meet their individual needs,” Kim added.