The Littler back-to-work survey: Employers and employee expectations show ‘tension’

It’s been a week of surveys, but Littler’s Annual Employer Survey Report stands out because the data is gathered from a substantial 1,160 in-house lawyers, C-suite and HR professionals, and because it covers a wide range of issues from planning a return to the physical workspace, to strategies for supporting employee well-being and engagement.

Employers planning for a transition to a post-pandemic workplace are faced with a host of novel issues – and addressing a disconnect with employees about what the future of work and the return to physical workspaces looks like is at the top of the list.

On the pressing matter of how to reopen offices and worksites, there is a tension between employers’ plans and employee preferences. While 71% of employers surveyed believe that most of their employees who can work remotely prefer a hybrid model and that only 4% prefer full-time in-person work, 28% of those employers plan to have most employees return full time and in person, and 55% will offer a hybrid model (i.e., a mix of remote and in-person work). Only 7% say their employees who are able to work remotely full time can continue to do so if they wish, despite 16% saying they believe most would prefer this option.

[Dark blue: Having few employees at work; Green: redesigning the office layout; Grey: Providing additional technology and/or reimbursement for home office related expenses; Light blue: Building formal support for employees with flexible work arrangements; Orange: utilising ‘office hoteling’ where employees reserve desks for a day to facilitate Hybrid work schedules; Yellow: reducing the size of our office space; Purple: Relocating operations out of cities or densely populated areas; Light grey: None.]

Most notably, 67% of respondents say they have (or plan to have) fewer employees work on-site at a time, while 55% say as much about redesigning the office layout. A fair number of employers are also focused on supporting remote workers, whether it’s through additional technology and/or reimbursement for home office-related expenses (41%) or formal support for those with remote and flexible work arrangements (35%).

[Dark blue: developing internal training programs for current employees; Grey: hiring more employees with strong technology skill; Green: Conducting an analysis to identify new skill sets neeed in our workforce and guide talent planning and job training; Blue: working with industry groups, universities or other institutions to create training programs; Orange: None. ]

Asked what organisations are doing to equip employees with technological skills as the pandemic continues to change the skills that workers need, perhaps the biggest surprise (or not) was the 38% that said ‘none.’ However, it is reassuring to see that the largest vote goes for developing internal training programs for current employees.

You can access that report here for free: