With the rate of vaccinations picking up in many parts of the world, employers are slowly but surely beginning to reopen offices and resume normal operations.

But what does ‘normal’ really look like in the post-pandemic world?

Throughout the past year, employees in many industries have proven that remote working can be just as effective as the traditional 9 to 5 office stint. And now that workers have tasted the freedoms and better work-life balance afforded by this more flexible way of working, it could be hard to go back to the pre-2019 approach.

However, while productivity may have skyrocketed, many employees report feeling lonely, anxious and burned out. A key source of this anxiety is the unknown. Some organisations are yet to make a firm decision on how the new way of working will play out within their company — and a lack of guidelines, policies and clear expectations can quickly leave staff feeling a little on edge.

So, how might the current remote working setup change once restrictions ease? What will remain and what will be left behind along with COVID?

Finding the right balance

To balance the desire for increased productivity with employees’ concerns, many companies are planning on taking a more relaxed, hybrid approach to their post-pandemic future. The hybrid model combines remote work with time in the office, and many forecasts suggest that this way of working will become the new norm once COVID restrictions are lifted.

But just how ‘hybrid’ will this approach really be?

In an attempt to measure the impact of the pandemic on the future of work, the recent Steelcase Global Report engaged 32,000 cumulative participants across 10 countries.

According to the report, more than half of workers in seven countries expected to work from home one day a week or less post-pandemic, meaning the office will once again become the primary work location.

However, organisations are also acutely aware that employees want more flexibility and that even four days in the office may be too much for some team members.

The research found that only 63% of company leaders saw a need to change their working policies in April 2020, just after the start of the pandemic. Fast forward to September 2020, however, and things looked a little different — 87% of leaders now expect to allow more flexible working than previously. As such, most companies will adopt long-term, flexible working policies that enable staff to work in a way that suits them. These flexible options could also include working beyond main offices or the home (for example, with satellite offices or co-working facilities).

Operating across countries

What started as a global working-from-home experiment (albeit one businesses had very little say in) has now become a more permanent hybrid solution. And the changes are sure to have a long-lasting impact on workforces all over the world.

Giving employees more control over how they work can significantly boost productivity and, in turn, strengthen organisational performance — not to mention lower the costs associated with having everyone in the office all the time. And above all, this hybrid model can help global businesses access and retain talent across the world.

However, when operating across multiple jurisdictions, it’s important to remember that attitudes towards a more flexible way of working may differ from country to country. The Steelcase Global Report found that companies in the UK, US, China and India were more likely to embrace a hybrid working model.

France and Germany, on the other hand, were less keen and the only countries where more than 70% of employees expected to spend at least four days a week in the office. These figures can largely be attributed to Germany’s and France’s strong office-based culture. So, for companies looking to rework their flexible working policies as they head out of the pandemic, it’s essential to consider the different cultural nuances that could impact how they’re received.

A professional employer organisation (PEO) can help you tackle all the complexities of hiring internationally — including HR and implementing policies. Contact us today to find out more about our international employment services.