Size matters: large firms lag behind in getting employees back to the office

This WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing looks at the most recent evidence on hybrid working including a New York study which shows the giant firms struggling the most to bring people back to the workplace

If you’re scratching your head right now about how to make hybrid happen, you’re not alone. The hybrid work model looks set to be the dominant policy for many organisations across the world, but some industries and organisations are struggling to implement it more than others.

According to a recent survey conducted by The Partnership for New York City of 160 major employers, 78 per cent indicated that they are implementing a hybrid work model post-pandemic which is up from 6 per cent before the pandemic started.

The survey took place between 21 April and 4 May 2022 and found that on an average weekday, 38 per cent of Manhattan office workers are in the workplace. This percentage is expected to rise to 49 per cent by September 2022.

However, these percentages start to change depending on the size of an organisation. The report found that larger firms project the slowest pace of return to offices. For organisations with fewer than 500 employees, over half (53 per cent) of employees have returned to the office on the average weekday, and this number is expected to rise to 59 per cent in September.

‘The report found that larger firms project the slowest pace of return to offices….’

But for firms with more than 5,000 employees the picture looks very different. Fewer than a third (31 per cent) of employees are currently in the office on the average weekday and 42 per cent are projected to be back by September.

These large firms are on par with industries such as consulting (44 per cent daily attendance), public relations (35 per cent daily attendance) and accounting (26 per cent daily attendance) in getting employees back to the office.

In contrast, the real estate industry has by far the highest average daily attendance of 82 per cent, followed by law (46 per cent), tech (44 per cent), media (43 per cent) and financial services firms (40 per cent).

When asked which factor would be most effective in bringing employees back to the office, almost a third indicated that greater return-to-office rates among peer companies would be most effective. As it stands, it looks like many companies are still waiting to see what their peers do before putting in place a solid strategy.

Designing for collaboration

The hybrid work model uptake is not just reserved for New Yorkers. A new 2022 State of the Workplace’ report by Vergesense found that office use has increased by 87 per cent from Q1 to Q2 2022 globally.

This return-to-office surge has led to many organisations reconfiguring their spaces in favour of more collaborative settings. Data from the report found that the average number of collaborative spaces per floor increased by 45 per cent from the beginning of 2022 to now. Today, a quarter of spaces per floors are dedicated to collaboration – a vast increase from before the pandemic when the average collaborative space per floor was only 10 per cent on average.

This data indicates that workplace leaders are adjusting office space with the expectation that employees will return to the office and work together in-person once again.

Making hybrid work work

Despite the data indicating that hybrid working is on the up, many organisations are still struggling with what that looks like in practice for their employees. Join the conversation at the WORKTECH Munich conference on Tuesday 31 May 2022 where experts from Boston Consulting Group, Roche and Global Office Portfolio will sit on a panel and discuss how new technologies and innovation can enhance the return to work and hybrid experience.

Book your place here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 25 May 2022.
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