NTT Ltd., a global technology and business solutions provider, today released the 2021 edition of the Global Workplace Report, providing vital insight into the future of work as businesses around the world prepare for a post-pandemic reality. The report finds that business leaders are significantly more satisfied with how they have adjusted to new working norms than their employees are, and points to the need for clearer organizational insight into how employees have reevaluated what they need from their workplace.
Shared awareness, divergent outlooks
Conducting 1,146 (430 in APAC) interviews across 23 countries, NTT found near-universal agreement that remote working has introduced difficulties, with 82% (83%) of respondents saying that it has challenged organizational performance and 81% (82%) saying that it has been challenging for employees. 63% of CHROs (58% of organizations in APAC), meanwhile, say that employee wellbeing has deteriorated over the course of the pandemic.
Broad awareness of the issue is not always translating into a realistic assessment of organizational capability, however. Compared to operations staff, CEOs are 20 percentage points more likely to believe that their organization is very effective at managing working hours, 28 points more likely to believe that they are effective at preventing burnout, and 41 points more likely to be very satisfied with their organization’s employee experience (EX) capabilities.
This awareness gap mirrors a serious lack of employee confidence, with just 38% saying that their employer fully values their health and wellbeing, and only 23% saying they are very happy working for their employer.
The great work-life reassessment
Underlying the satisfaction gap between employers and employees, the research found a significant degree of diversity in employee attitudes towards their own future working preferences. Voice of the Employee (VoE) data shows that, when offered a choice of at-home, hybrid, or in-office working arrangements, employees are relatively evenly split between the three, at 30%, 30%, and 39%, respectively.
This finding contradicts the belief, shared by 79% of organizations, that employees prefer office working – when in fact, VoE data finds that just 39% of employees desire full time office working.
“Currently, the narrative is all about remote working – but the reality of employees’ needs is much more complicated, and any failure to accurately assess and respond to that fact presents a serious risk to organizations”, comments Alex Bennett, Global Senior Vice President, GTM Solutions at NTT Ltd. “These are not mild preferences: we found that work-life balance and commute times are now the two biggest factors people look at when deciding where to work, and so performing well on workforce and workplace strategy will be a real competitive advantage.”
The need to lead by EXample
Acting on the basis of a clear view of employees’ outlooks is being made more difficult by a lack of thorough data and insight collection. In terms of data priorities, 52% (55%) of businesses report VoE being a top focus, second only to workplace analytics at 54% (57%). In spite of this, however, just 39% (41%) of organizations have structured VoE programs, and 37% (38%) employ real-time sentiment analysis, compared to 54% (57%) utilizing employee surveys.
The research also demonstrated that the application of these kinds of data for improving an organization’s EX needs to go much further than day-to-day quality-of-life improvements; at 40%, a company’s purpose and values is now the third most important factor for choosing where to work. In this area, employees and business leaders are in sync, with 89% (90%) agreeing that environment, social and governance (ESG) objectives are at the heart of the organization’s agenda.
“I would look at this as a call to shift our thinking from being about actions to being about outcomes”, concludes Bennett. “What’s important is not what we do to improve the workplace, but how it actually benefits the workforce – and an organization cannot know that without a mature approach to measuring employees’ sentiment. Surprisingly, two thirds of employees say they’re not yet equipped with all the tools they need to work from home, and just 55% (56%) of organizations say they are strongly satisfied that office spaces are ready for hybrid working. Nonetheless, 82% (83%) of organizations are engaged in reshaping their office space over the next 12 months to foster an environment of innovation and social connection. Clearly, there’s an awareness on some level that immature workforce strategies will lead to employee discontent, and that work should be led by what people actually need.”