World of Work 2022 survey: what you told us about the future

The Covid-19 pandemic will permanently change the way we work in the future, according our global survey of WORKTECH Academy members on prospects for 2022

Major and irreversible change is on the horizon in 2022. That’s the prospect according to our inaugural World of Work survey of WORKTECH Academy members and subscribers.

In a special global poll sent out to workplace professionals in the first week of the new year to capture the latest thinking in the field, an overwhelming majority of respondents (88 per cent) agreed that the Covid-19 pandemic will permanently change the way we work in the future. Half of those surveyed strongly agreed. Only 8 per cent disagreed overall.

The World of Work in 2022 survey is based on 200 responses from Europe, North and South America, Asia Pacific and Africa. A quarter of respondents reported that they work in architecture and design; 17 per cent work in business, consulting and management; 12 per cent of the survey are in property construction. There were also responses from such fields as law, media, transport, logistics, engineering, and public services and administration.

Workplace professionals in North and South America appear most certain that the pandemic will lead to permanent change. Europe has more divided opinions – 9 per cent strongly disagree that we’re on the brink of an irreversible shift. In terms of sector, engineering and manufacturing are most convinced about permanent change (70 per cent) while those in transport and logistics are the least convinced – a third strongly disagree.

Impact of hybrid

More than two-thirds of the survey (68 per cent) said that hybrid working will have a major or extreme impact on work and workplace in 2022. Only 6 per cent said there would be little or no impact. Respondents from North America, Asia Pacific and Europe appear generally aligned on the impact of hybrid, but South America is the outlier with 17 per cent saying there will be no impact. By sector, professionals in healthcare, science and pharmaceuticals are the most unanimous in bracing for major change with hybrid working. It explains why these sectors plan on working in the office two days or less in an average week.

Office attendance

Globally, WORKTECH Academy members appear to be planning a future of work that involves less attendance at the office. Six out of ten anticipate spending two days or less in the office. Only 8 per cent plan on spending five days per week in the office and 10 per cent anticipate spending four days. A fifth of the survey (21 per cent) will opt for three days per week.

South America has the highest proportion of full-time returners to the office whereas North America has the lowest proportion; 90 per cent of North American professionals say they will spend three days or less in the office in an average week. Among respondents in property and construction, nobody anticipates spending five days per week in the office – the highest proportion in this sector opted for two days per week. More than 40 per cent of those in business, consulting and management plan to spend just one day per week in the office.

Purpose of the office

Asked to name what the main purpose of going to the office will be in 2022, over half of global respondents named in-person collaboration with colleagues and a third said it was to strengthen company culture. The focus was generally internal – only 9 per cent described the main purpose as collaborating with clients.

Respondents in Asia Pacific suggested that the main purpose was not all about collaboration – task-based solo working in the office was also part of the mix. By sector, property and construction professional showed the least interest in building company culture and the greatest orientation towards working with clients in the office.

Demand for flex space

Asked to anticipate how demand for flexible office space might differ in 2022 from 2021, our survey recorded a mixed response: only 14 per cent said they’d need much more and 18 per cent said they’d need slightly more; six out of ten respondents said they’d need the same amount, slightly less or much less flexible office space this year. This feedback suggests that the giant strides anticipated for the flexible workspace market might be tempered in a period of consolidation this year.

By region, Europe and North America appear most divided on how much flexible space its firms will require, with the widest variation of need. Half of respondents from South America said that they will need fewer flex spaces, perhaps because they intend spending more time in the office on average than elsewhere.

Lawyers appear least likely to dive into the flexible office market this year – a third of respondents in this sector said they will need much less flexible space in 2022 and a further third said they do not use this service and will not need it in the future. Engineering and manufacturing were far more positive:  around 70 per cent said they’d need more flex-space.

Factors affecting wellbeing

The World of Work survey investigated the top factors that will have the greatest effect on personal wellbeing in 2022. In Asia Pacific, flexibility of work location narrowly pipped flexibility of work times and the blurring of boundaries between work and home life. In North America, the blurring of boundaries between work and home life was the runaway winner; in South America, it was flexibility of work location. In Europe, lack of commute and blurred boundaries between work and home life were on a level pegging in terms of impact on wellbeing.

‘Top of the list of improvements were adjustments to office space and the introduction of flexible working…’

Finally, our survey asked respondents to describe major changes, advancements or investments they will be making in the world of work this year. Top of the list were adjustments to office space and the introduction of flexible working followed by a plethora of initiatives related to such issues as employee experience, training support, building culture and making processes more people-centric.

A focus on fixing the work environment will be welcome news for many in the WORKTECH member community. But generally, the message of our research in our network is clear – hold onto your hats, change in how we work is here and it will be permanent.

The World of Work in 2022 survey was designed and conducted in partnership with Arraz Makhzani and Annabel Kay of UnWork. WORKTECH Academy’s full report, ‘The World of Work in 2022’, will be published on Monday 7 February.

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