Hybrid working is now a permanent feature of most workplaces and it is offered to all employees, most of whom attend the office no more than 50% of the time. This is according to Totum’s fourth survey of professional service firms and their plans/policies in regard to returning to the office: ‘Returning to the office: The agile workplace’.
Our ‘return to the office’ survey has been conducted in six-month intervals since March 2021. Each time, we have asked firms the same questions to more easily compare results and observe changing sentiments/trends. But over time we have also added a few additional questions to reflect the shifting market over the past 6 and 12 months.
Highlights of our findings
- 5% of respondents are still uncertain as to the future of their hybrid working policy, 61% now have a hybrid policy that represents a permanent change up from 49% in March this year while the rest are either still testing an approach that is not yet settled (34%).
- Most firms seem to favour a 40% office / 60% home working pattern (or three days at home, two in the office) while a slightly smaller number favour the other way – a 60/40 balance or three days in the office and two at home.
- When asked where people will be allowed to work, the most popular option remains ‘Able to commute into the office if needed at short notice’ putting the office firmly centre-stage. However, the figures for this option have dropped from 77% in September 2021 to 68% now.
- When the survey asked firms for their average weekly office occupancy over four weeks (not including August), most respondents selected the 26-50% bracket – 67% of respondents in September 2022, compared to 69% in March (see figure nine). For sure, more are now filling the 51-75% office occupancy bracket – 26% compared to just 11% in March, and only 7% now have just 0-25% occupancy rates.
- 82% are encouraging office attendance via team/anchor days, 80% are hosting team social activities and 66% are running firm-wide social events – numbers that if anything have risen since March 2022.
- Most respondent firms (75%) have not introduced a policy/framework to discount an employee’s salary if they are moving to a lower-cost location. But 20% are still thinking about it in September 2022, and a small number (5%) have already done so.
- 61% of respondent firms do not discount salaries for employees that work 100% remotely but 27% are thinking about doing this and 12% already do so.
Overall, these findings reflect the conversations we are having with firms on a daily basis. As hybrid working models have become standard practice across most firms, they have brought with them many advantages but firms currently running offices with only 50% attendance at best will be grappling with difficult decisions: how to rethink office space and how teams can be best brought together for the sustained benefit of all, while prioritising productivity, cost-efficiency and employee wellbeing. None of this is easy but the firms that can find the right balance will reap the rewards of a landscape that has already changed – and is waiting for the most progressive firms to seize its potential.