We can already observe new employee habits shaped and ways of work that employers need to consider in order to keep employee engagement levels high.

With the “new normal”, business leaders, HR managers, and regional officers must ascertain employees’ needs after COVID-19. Successfully tackling this challenge is key to a meaningful solution to maintaining company growth and increasing overall efficiency in the pandemic aftermath of office life.

So, what do employees want after COVID-19?

Here are the top three answers to this critical question, according to various research and international studies on the subject:

Flexible hybrid approach

Prithwiraj Choudhury, professor of business administration from Harvard Business School, points out the new norm of “work-from-anywhere”, which naturally leads to the requirement of a new approach to handling employees’ needs.

Those needs are even more tied to the well-known work-life balance than ever before – geographical freedom, lowering commuting hours, more accessible virtual-working models, and decreased physical meeting time, to name a few.

As a consequence, providing employees with flexible and hybrid options becomes the future of human resources and human capital.

According to extensive McKinsey & Company research, over 52% of employees prefer some form of a more flexible working model after the pandemic.

A study by Microsoft, called “Hybrid Work”, shows the new trends of remote work and hybrid models. This term describes the blend of employees who want to remain in the workspace, while others prefer work-from-anywhere (if you want to explore this topic further check out this in-depth eBook on building a sustainable hybrid model).

The direct implication of these hybrid models leads to well-observed positive trends – such as finding talent anywhere around the world faster and easier or a more personal connection between employees and their leaders, mentors, and managers. High productivity and better innovation are also among the positive effects of the flexible approach to working models.

The hybrid work model has plenty of benefits both for employees and employers. A thorough analysis of the hybrid model, made by international HR company Hibob, points out the biggest benefits of flexible hybrid models are:

  1. improved overall employee performance
  2. increased organizational skills
  3. better mental health

Last but not least, compromising the old working habits in favor of new ones conveys a positive message to all employees. Having clear, open communication regarding the transition to post-COVID business life can help retain the employees who consider switching to other jobs.

Increased remote working

According to a report about remote work by Nira, 91% of remote workers prefer working from home, and 96% would recommend working remotely to a friend.

Having more hours to work remotely and from anywhere has become extremely attractive for today’s employees and will continue to be relevant in post-COVID times. The reasons for that are many, among which are reduced travel times and lower personal travel costs, creating better work-life balance.

The study also finds that 66% of leaders consider redesigning office space for hybrid work, 73% of employees want flexible remote options to stay in the company, and 67% of workers want more in-person collaboration post-pandemic.

Another nationwide U.S. research shows that remote work has resulted in a 5% jump in productivity, mainly because people use the commute hours for work, and employees are not burned out by it.

Examples of this growing trend can be seen across different businesses. An article by Guardian tells the story of an entrepreneur and owner of a credit card processing company, Gravity Payments.

When asked by his staff whether they should return to office working hours after the peak of the pandemic passed, the owner Dan Price let them decide what to do. 62% of his workers chose to work from home. The rest of the employees preferred going back to the office full time or chose the hybrid option by working half of the time remotely, the other half – in the office.

The results from implementing this flexible approach led by listening to employees’ wants were impressive:

  • record revenues for two months in a row during 2021
  • company growth beyond 200 employees
  • expanded virtual offices to 24 different states.

Another example is countries like Spain and New Zealand that seriously question the 9 to 5 office working hours by experimenting with a four-day workweek. As a result, researchers report a significant productivity rise of between 20% to 40%. Letting employees work remotely results in improved company efficiency and increased problem-solving skills.

Emphasis on mental health

During the COVID-19 pandemic, stress and health concerns loom over people daily. Mental issues like anxiety, burnout, and/or post-COVID trauma are likely to get amplified due to the uncertainties that workers face and the changing working environment. That is why we will see a higher emphasis on mental health and a growing need for these challenges to be addressed by employers.

Clear communication is vital here, as tackling the most significant mental health problems puts people at ease, makes them more comfortable, and able to cope with everyday stress that comes with increased pandemic health concerns.

Managers need to cope with the situation by showing kindness and compassion, actively listening, and offering support to their colleagues by acknowledging their needs.

Linda Hill, chair of the Leadership Initiative at Harvard Business School, points out that the workforce is highly traumatized after more than a year of global pandemics.

We are all in this together, so CEOs and business leaders need to develop closer connections with their staff. Going forward, employees want a commitment to their overall health, and specifically, these top 3 growing mental health issues: post-COVID trauma, anxiety, and burnout syndrome.

If we get back to the McKinley & Company research – nearly 47% of surveyed respondents say the lack of vision for the post-pandemic future is a cause for anxiety. Another 49% of employees state they are feeling somewhat burned out at work.

Anxiety among workers in the U.S. is known to cause diminished work performance, worsen in-house communications, and overall loss of productivity. Converted to numbers, this loss can be as high as $1 trillion per year for the global economy. People feeling uncertain about the future of their work can resort to switching jobs in the search for better well-being.

In conclusion

Many people have gone through significant changes in their lives through the painful experience of lockdown and pandemic realities. Due to all this, a shift in perspective has led to a global process of employees reassessing their relationship to work, going to the office, and to аchieve their life goals.

Addressing this shift in the worldview of people will be the next challenge we face when it comes to the employee-employer relationship. Knowing what the workers want, and what they need is key to solving this challenge.

It can also be a great motivator for change. Letting workers decide for themselves about important aspects of their job, like remote hours, office days, and meeting length is the way to meet the new realities of the post-pandemic world.

Check out our article on the most useful hybrid work tips for employees to learn more.

OfficeRnD Hybrid is a management platform that helps you tap into the hybrid and flexible office models and provide a modern, tech-enabled workspace experience to your employees. If you’re curious to learn more, check out the product capabilities or book your demo to see the platform in action.

Asen Stoyanchev
Senior Content Marketing & SEO Specialist | OfficeRnD
Asen is passionate about flexible working and the future of work. He firmly believes that work flexibility directly impacts one's health and well-being. When he's not writing, Asen spends his time devouring business literature, hiking, and parenting.