The pandemic reshapes employees’ expectations and attitudes towards office work, according to the third survey conducted by Skanska in CEE. In the face of the new reality generated by the pandemic, where the preference for a hybrid-working model prevails, more than half of the CEE employees already work only from the office and are now expecting more support from the companies when it comes to mental health and wellbeing. The study shows the preferences of office workers in Romania, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic regarding the new professional context and their perspective on the current aspects that companies need to reconsider.
Skanska has conducted a new study within the four Central and Eastern European countries (Romania, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic) in order to evaluate office workers’ attitudes towards working from home or working from the office during the pandemic.
On a regional level, more than half of the respondents (52%) claim that they are working only from the office at the time of the survey, an increased percentage compared to the results in May 2021, when only 48% of the employees were working from the office at the time. In Romania, 45% of the surveyed employees claim that they only work from the office at the time of the study.
The study shows that the social and professional relations, as well as the integration in teams of the new employees, are strongly influenced by the time spent in the office. Additional activities to encourage socializing, meeting interesting people, massages, and sports activities at the workplace would motivate people to work more often in the office.
Amongst other aspects that are becoming more and more important for the employees, especially for the Romanian office workers, are the ones related to mental health and well-being.
The ideal working model: hybrid
According to the results, 45% of Romanian employees are working only from the office at the time of the survey (compared to 48% in May 2021), while 20% work exclusively from home. 16% of employees consider the ideal working model to be the hybrid one, consisting of 3-4 days a week working from the office and the rest from their own home. Only 10% of Romanian employees would choose to spend 1-2 days working in the office and the rest at home.
Regarding the possibility to choose between the days working from the office and the ones working from home, every third employee in CEE claims that the hybrid model is imposed by the employer, with limited possibilities for changing. Romania, however, along with Hungary, is the most flexible country in terms of the working model imposed by the employer. 1/3 of Romanian respondents are free to decide on days of office and work at home.
Data also shows that Romania is the best-organized country in terms of office work planning systems. 42% of respondents claim that there is a scheduling tool in their company to help them organize office work. This underlines the importance and effectiveness of the platforms that allow the management of daily work.
The effects of working from home
For the Romanian employees, the limited days of working from the office have a negative impact on issues such as the integration of the new employees (44%), social and professional relations between employees (41%), teamwork (37%), and involvement in “after hours” company activities (37%). At the same time, the negative effects are mentioned when it comes to recruiting new employees (31%).
Regarding working from home, Romanians associate it positively with the feeling of freedom (32%), comfort during working hours (26%), and contentment (26%). It also gives them satisfaction (20%) and a sense of security (20%).
On the other hand, Romanian employees perceive working from home more negatively than others and are, more than other CEE employees, affected by feelings of loneliness (29%), frustration (25%), and job insecurity (25%), longing (20%), sadness (19%), and disappointment (19%).
Among the measured aspects, working from home has a more positive impact in terms of work-life balance, especially for Romanians and Hungarians. If the results of the previous study showed that working from home has a rather negative impact on this aspect, 52% of CEE employees and 47% of Romanians are claiming now that working from home allows them to better organize their family life.
This shows the need to consider and implement time-saving solutions in the workplace.
Even though employees have learned to manage their work-life balance more effectively, the results show that working from home can negatively impact both employees’ feelings, as well as teamwork and professional social relationships. The office continues to play an important role when it comes to integration, building culture, and strengthening teams.
Mental health and well-being are increasingly important for employees
At the CEE level, over 40% of respondents believe that working from home has a positive effect on their mental health. However, according to the survey, employees often face feelings of loneliness, frustration, and insecurity at work. Working from home gives employees a sense of freedom and peace, which means that employers should pay special attention to mental health and create workspaces that meet their needs.
Romanians are among the most concerned when it comes to this type of issue. Romanian employees (83%) along with the Hungarian ones (85%) are the most convinced that employers should offer employees more support in terms of mental health.
Among Romanian employees, paid leave in case of professional burnout (47%) and free individual meetings with a psychologist (44%) are the most desired solutions from companies to support the mental health of office workers. 32% of Romanian employees would like to have training sessions regarding mental health at work, and 26% feel the need to have access to a mediator, in case of conflicts between employees.
The role of „after hours” activities
Extra activities are now less frequently organized by employers than before the pandemic, but almost half of surveyed employees expect additional facilities at work. Meeting interesting people, massages, shared meals in the office and off-site events are the most encouraging in terms of visiting the office more often.
70% of Romanians would prefer off-site events with accommodation, 69% would like meetings with interesting people, 67% say that shared meals with the colleagues are a motivator to work more often from the office and 58% would like to have the possibility to get massages at work. Another motivator for spending more time at the office for 27% of Romanians is a well-equipped common kitchen with healthy snacks, fresh fruits and vegetables, sandwiches, and a wide range of tea and coffee.
“The pandemic has amplified the awareness in terms of well-being and mental health, primarily in personal life, and even more so in professional life. Despite any circumstances, the office still plays an important role , and, when we talk about it, the first thing in our minds should be the people who spend most of their time here. Workspaces must evolve at the same pace with the people they accommodate, and constantly adapt and improve to meet the new needs and desires. Thus, physical security is no longer the only aspect that companies should take into account – nowadays offices must become a safe space for both the well-being and the mental health of employees, says Anne-Marie Diaconu, Leasing & Asset Director for Skanska’s business development division in CEE.
If the time spent commuting to the office was an impediment oftenly mentioned by the surveyed employees compared to May 2021, the barrier that now prevents Romanians from spending more time working from the office is the fear of contacting a virus, which is a concern for 38% of Romanians and for ¼ CEE employees. The results show that high health standards, such as certificates such as Well Health & Safety Rating, can encourage office work, while lack of them can cause fear of contracting the virus.