Reinventing work around the world: new survey | Ruth Holmes

Of particular note in the extensive range of EY Reinvented Work Survey 2022which examines employers’ perceptions as well as employees’ aspirations, is the mismatch between employees’ desire to revive business travel and their employers’ plans.For 33% of the 1,575 organizations from 22 countries and 26 industries surveyed, employers expect travel to return or moderately increase to pre-pandemic levels.Yet well over double that percentage of the 17,000 employees surveyed responded positively (76%) to whether they would like “the same or more business trips compared to before covid”. The numbers correlate with a recent white paper published by American Express Global Business Travel, which highlights the importance of face-to-face meetings and business travel for positive engagement and work cultures.


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The big return to the workplace?

While employees are keen to leave and travel for business, they view returning to the office full-time less favorably. Four out of five employees worldwide want to work remotely at least two days a week. This year, only a fifth expressed reluctance to work entirely remotely, down from 34% last year. In an interesting finding for employers based in major cities around the world, 40% of people with a commute of 30 minutes or less were significantly more likely to be willing to work fully in person at the office. The figure drops considerably to a quarter when journeys extend to 30 minutes and beyond.Whether or not employers are receiving these clear messages or responding to them effectively is an open question. When asked about their organization’s commitment to providing flexibility in when and where they work, employers (78%) are more likely than employees (67%) to agree that this is the case.And when it comes to promoting hybrid working to attract and retain talent at a time when certain elements of hybrid working are a clear factor in talent management, only 49% of employees agree with this statement, compared to 75% of employers. This suggests that employers struggling with skills shortages would do well to raise awareness of their efforts in this area, for example through campaigns such as Flex From 1st and via line managers.

Back to the future?

Other areas where employers are out of step with employees are whether productivity has improved since the start of the pandemic (41% vs. 64% respectively) and whether organizational culture has improved since the pandemic. pandemic (40% versus 61% respectively) .It seems that the leaders are keen to return to a normal situation before the pandemic, while the employees are more satisfied with the changes in the workplace brought about by the pandemic.However, compensation is one area where employers and employees are more closely aligned. About four in five employees (79%) are looking for opportunities to increase their total salary. Employers (83%) agree that the pandemic has accelerated the need for significant changes to a rewards policy, including compensation, wellbeing, flex benefits, time off and personal development.Yet meeting business and employee needs will likely be another balancing act, despite some shared priorities.When asked what would be the three deciding factors for accepting another job offer, employees answered:

  1. higher salary (35%)
  2. flexible working (32%)
  3. better career opportunities (25%).

In this regard, employers were asked what are the three factors that will allow employees to thrive in a new work experience. The best answers were:

  1. learning and skills (37%)
  2. flexible working (36%)
  3. investment in employee well-being (32%).

“The focus on learning and skills by employers could be a reaction to the big quit,” says EY. “If turnover is high and employers are less confident in the productivity gains made from the pandemic, then an employer may be more likely to invest in upskilling the remaining workforce.“This positioning of employers may also align with the needs and expectations of a subset of employees who are more likely to be engaged with the business. These individuals are more likely to be concerned about the risks of burnout and their mental well-being, more likely to work full-time in an office and to have a more favorable view of work-life balance.

Well being at work

If so, this reinforces the idea that employers could benefit from being more inclusive and valuing diversity and equity (DEI), especially from a well-being perspective.In addition to delineating the data by employer and employee, EY has broken down the figures by age, role, gender, sector, ethnicity and country. Key findings include that across the sample, men report higher levels of well-being (59%) due to new ways of working introduced by the pandemic, compared to 17% who saw their well-being decline. For women, four in ten saw an improvement, while 29% saw a decline. This confirms studies conducted by consulting firms like McKinsey, as reported by Relocate Global’s Think Global People magazine. Gen Z and millennials were also more likely to look for new work, according to the EY survey. Interestingly from the perspective of perceptions of productivity and willingness to return to the office, those working in executive leadership (66%) and technology (65%) benefited the most from the feel-good effect . Those who see the least benefit are those working in customer service (32%), administration or general staff (36%), operations or logistics (38%). These are likely frontline occupations among the large minority of jobs where remote working is not an option for operational purposes and where people still had to travel to a physical workplace during shutdowns. About three in ten of these three groups saw their well-being decline – the biggest decline among the 11 occupational groups. By country, more people in India (75%), the Middle East (70%) and Indonesia (70%) have benefited from the positive effects of changing ways of working compared to Scandinavia (32%) , Japan (29%) and New Zealand (29%).

Increase agility

The ability to be agile to react and anticipate change is one of the key success factors for organizations and individuals in this age of uncertainty. EY notes that optimistic employers – those who have been “proactive in their approach to flexible working, real estate and technology” – are more likely to agree that they have seen positive results.Concluding its report, EY says: “Work has been reimagined by employees and employers, but their visions do not always align. Both see flexibility and hybrid working as the new norm, though additional details reveal divisions. Employees are always willing to leave their jobs to advance their careers and earning potential.”For employers and employees, international remote work and the distributed workforce are attractive or already established options. However, integrating them successfully always means paying attention to culture, rewards and benefits.“Global uncertainty related to inflation and labor costs is fueling reluctance among employers who are unwilling to review wages and career opportunities,” EY continues. “If companies don’t address pay equity between internal and external labor markets, then efforts to improve culture, productivity, and DE&I will be neutralized by revenue.“By acting with intentionality, leaders can build trust and steer their organizations toward an optimistic future.”

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For more, see the Spring 2022 issue of Think Global People.

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