Research: Ongoing hybrid working increases productivity, but adds pressure on workers and leaders

Aurel Constantin 09/09/2021 | 14:52

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to shape our working practices and attitude towards work, with both workers and leaders calling for continued and permanent changes in how and where we work and how performance is measured, according to new research.


The Adecco Group, the world’s leading HR solutions company, has unveiled today the results of its latest and most comprehensive global study, Resetting Normal: Defining the New Era of Work, which examines how attitudes towards work have changed over 12 months and highlights the key issues that companies must manage in order to successfully adapt in this period of transition. A year after the pandemic changed the way we work forever, this report builds on the Group’s 2020 research, focusing on the outlook for 2021 and beyond and expands the research to cover 25 countries and 15,000 office-based respondents across the globe.

The Adecco Group’s Chief Executive Officer, Alain Dehaze, said: “For those who are not bound to being physically present to perform their work, it is obvious that we will never return to the office in the same way and that the future of work is flexible. The pandemic has accelerated existing trends to the point where they cannot be ignored, and future success depends on individuals and leaders adapting to them.

Our research clearly shows that “one size will not fit all” when it comes to addressing employees’ needs and we’re increasingly seeing a leadership struggling to balance remote working and care for their teams. Now is the time to start bridging this gap by developing and equipping leaders and workers alike with the skills and capabilities they need to reignite motivation and build a cohesive company culture that maintains and develops a successful, resilient and healthy workforce. This is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it is where the battle for talent will happen. Companies that are able and willing to recognise and deal with these issues will thrive, and those that are not may be left behind.

Thanks to insights from implementing our own Future@Work strategy, coupled with our worldwide scope, the Adecco Group is well positioned to develop and deploy solutions to these dynamic opportunities and challenges.”

The Country Manager of Adecco Romania, Florin Godean, stated: “Romania is part of this study for the first time. It is very interesting to see how Romanian employees share the same worries and concerns as those in other parts of the globe. The study also revealed large differences in perception between Romanian employees and those from other countries or groups of countries:

  • Romanians, along with other Eastern Europeans, have among the lowest desires to work remotely after the pandemic. Only 43% of Romanians and Eastern Europeans want this, versus 64% of respondents in Japan, or 63% in the UK.
  • Romanians and other Eastern Europeans want to return to the office as soon as possible. 68% of Romanians and Eastern Europeans want this, versus 53% of Australians who are reluctant to return to the office.
  • At a strictly regional level in Eastern Europe, Romanians are most satisfied with career prospects in the near future, as opposed to Greek employees.
  • Also, Romanian employees say they are the least affected by the pressure on mental health in the last 12 months (only 21% of respondents say they are affected). This is unlike 55% of respondents in Poland.

Key research highlights:

Hybrid working is here to stay, but flexibility is key

The research reveals that globally, a large proportion (53%) of workers want a hybrid working model, where at least half of their time spent working is remote, with a large proportion of workers (71%) now having a set-up at home that allows effective remote work. The last 18 months have proved that remote work does not come with a loss of productivity, and that a more inclusive and flexible way of working is possible. More than three quarters of workers want to retain flexibility over their own schedule, going back into the office, but on their own terms. This is especially strong for younger generations and parents, who are calling for more office time, with those who have children wanting to be in the office more (51%) than those who do not (42%).

Productivity and results-orientation

While many have benefited from hybrid working, not everyone has had a positive experience. Questions over the length of the working week must be addressed as the future stays flexible, with mention of long hours increasing 14% in the last year and more than half of workers (57%) stating they would be able to do the same work in less than 40 hours. More (73%) workers and leaders are calling to be measured by outcomes and results, rather than hours spent working, a trend that was already strong in 2020.

Poor mental health highlighted as rapidly emerging issue

The report also reveals that we are at risk of losing a new generation of leaders – with more than half of young leaders (54%) suffering from burnout and 3 in 10 workers generally stating their mental and physical health has declined in the last 12 months. Companies must re-evaluate how they can better support and provide wellbeing resources to their employees, within the new hybrid working model, with 67% of non-managers saying leaders don’t meet their expectations for checking on their mental wellbeing.

The leadership deficit

In a similar nature, there is a big disconnect between management views of their own performance and the opinion of their employees. Satisfaction with leadership is low, with only a third of non-managers feel they are getting due recognition within the business, and only half of all workers say their managers met or exceeded expectations for encouraging a good working culture (48%) or helping support their work-life balance (50%). This is particularly strong in Western Europe and Japan, whose satisfaction with senior leadership is lowest.

Mass resignation? Warning signs for companies as employees re-assess their careers

Finally, the findings highlighted that with motivation and engagement at a low, less than half are satisfied with career prospects at their company, nearly 2 in 5 are changing or considering new careers and 41% are considering moving to jobs with more flexible working options. The predicted ‘great resignation’ is not obvious yet, but the time is now for organizations to reconnect with their workforce. In addition, two-thirds of workers are confident that companies will start significant hiring again, with security, agency, culture, wellbeing and development as the most important aspects of employment for the future.

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