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To please many and to find the golden mean, or a few words about work models

Jan Szulborski • 24/11/2021
Remote work has split corporate managers and employees into two almost equal groups. Some say that out-of-office working is more efficient while others believe that the office is where work really happens and if employees are not supervised, they won’t work. Global real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield and Antal take a closer look at the preferences and expectations of employees as to work models in their latest report Flexibility of Professionals and Managers in the Labour Market. 

Ford’s revolution

We work according to a system created by Robert Owen in 1817, who proposed eight hours of labour, eight hours of recreation and eight hours of rest. His idea was initially derided by competitive entrepreneurs. In 1868, the eight-hour working day was introduced in the United States, but covered only federal employees, including officials. A genuine disruption came in 1914, when Henry Ford doubled the daily wage and reduced the factory shift to eight hours. Competitors opposed vehemently, but when it turned out that it had increased productivity and pushed profits up from $30 to $60 million rather than cause a disaster, other companies also changed their employment policies within two years.

Has really nothing changed over the past 200 years and should we still live according to the same rules?

There are many arguments in favour and against remote work which has as many supporters as opponents. Research, however, clearly shows that combining in-office and home working is the way forward. Most companies are already implementing 2-3 work patterns with employees working two days at home and three days in the office, or the other way round. Some more progressive companies will allow for remote working only, without designating any fixed workplaces. Given these scenarios, there will be a growing number of office workers able to work anywhere who will demand workplace flexibility. Work is not born in a vacuum – consider the social and economic environment, for example. Home prices are rising throughout Poland. Few can afford to buy a flat in city centres enabling easy commutes to work. Just the opposite, more and more people live further away from where they work, which disrupts their daily eight-hour rhythm. Before March 2020, daily commutes to work and back home taking one hour each way were the norm for many who obviously could have used that time to read books, listen to podcasts or even respond to business e-mails.

“This somewhat enforced remote work has demonstrated to sceptical companies that the world is not upended when employees work at home. They are often even more engaged or efficient. Commute times are important to many ordinary Polish people. So, let’s begin planning cities appropriately or implement a hybrid work model,” says Dominika Kowalska, Associate, Workplace Strategy, Office Department, Cushman & Wakefield.

Managers’ perspective

Professionals and managers favour the office for meetings over homes or other places with online connectivity. According to respondents, face to face contacts are needed to create engagement, especially for team brainstorming (59%), external meetings with a potential client (57%) and in-company meetings (56%). For individual and creative work, home is preferred by 78% and 56% of survey respondents, respectively.

Redesign the office

“Employers favour in-office over remote working, but to implement it – while keeping employees happy – they need to modify office space. 86% of professionals and managers expect offices to be more flexible and to enable employees to quickly change desks depending on the tasks they perform,” says Jan Szulborski, Senior Consultant, Consulting & Research, Cushman & Wakefield.

Flexible space is a challenge. It is a mixture of many technical and technological solutions, but, above all, it requires long-term planning towards multi-purpose spaces and solutions customised to every company and employee rather than offering a whole range of various spaces to choose from. An ideal office space should be easily adaptable to the changing environment and be suited to the specific preferences and working styles of all its users and teams in a company.
Compared to the previous edition of the report, there has been a marked increase in the percentage of respondents claiming that organisations should provide greater remote work opportunities and that offices should be more flexible and enable employees to change desks quickly, depending on the tasks they perform – up by 10 percentage points in each case. Interestingly, 13 percentage points more respondents believe that the office should serve social functions such as opinion sharing, holding meetings, etc. However, close to 10 percentage points more survey respondents think that the office is not essential for work efficiency.
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