Fortune 500 Executives Tell Us What Their Post-COVID Workplaces Will Look Like

Marcus Erb

Author

Philippine GDP has shrunk to a record 9.5% in 2020, overtaking the old record in 1984 of just 7%. Experts say that this is by far the worst economic downturn. Yet businesses who survived the year are optimistic for 2021, that this global fight against COVID-19 is about to be over.

Rumors surfacing of the vaccines entering the Philippines have quite mixed and unsettling opinions, but one of the pressing question for most leaders would be how would workplaces look like in the #nextnormal?

While most employees cherished the time they spent with their family, some cannot wait to move out from their dining tables at home and back to their comfortable office desks.

In this article, we briefly look back on some elements of this cyberspace exodus and look at data from Fortune 500 executives, the people-first considerations they have in a post pandemic workplace and the signals they look for to say when it is time to safely get back to work.

-GPTW Philippines

 

With people starting to roll up their sleeves for a vaccine and employees eager to get back into the office, employers are deliberating when and how they’ll re-open their offices.

In our recent study on returning to the office and the post-COVID workplace, we surveyed 79 executives from 56 Fortune 500 companies.

Executives told us how they’re preparing for employees to return to in-office work and what, if any, changes they’ll be making. While they admit that remote work is here to stay to some extent, many are ready to swap video calls for in-person meetings once again.

The COVID-fueled exodus to cyberspace

When the pandemic hit, employers scrambled to set up work-from-home options and the remote workforce quadrupled.

Pre-COVID, the average portion of employees working remotely was just 16%, according to survey respondents.

That number has since leapt to 65%, with most employees working from their dining tables in the professional services (89%), information technology (88%), and financial services and insurance (74%) sectors (see chart).

Executives disagree on how working from home has affected company culture and productivity

50% of executives surveyed believed productivity was not impacted by remote work. 30% of executives believed teams were more productive while working from home.

But 20% reported mixed impacts across teams and business units, with some improving while others suffering.

Leaders hold diverse views about the anticipated productivity gains when employees return to the office, with just 14% expecting better productivity in the future (see chart).

30% of executives believed teams were more productive while working from home.

Camaraderie and morale (61%) and collaboration (45%) are the top ways executives expect returning to the office will improve company culture.

When executives plan to return employees to the office

Having employees return to the office hinges on safety measures and the nature of the industry.

Most leaders are targeting a return to the workplace within the next 7-12 months (52%)Six months is the target for 30% of executives surveyed, and 13-18 months (13%) and 19-24 months (1%) is when the remainder plan to return.

Hospitality and retail leaders are likely to return sooner, with 78% anticipating a return within the next 6 months.

Want to go back to the office? Better get that vaccine

Vaccine availability is the primary signal executives are seeking for a safe return. Other factors include improved treatment and testing for COVID-19, and adjustments to office spaces, including onsite clinics, temperature checks and improved HVAC systems (see chart).

Location, location, relocation

While most executives anticipate a return to the office, how that office looks and functions will likely change.

The vast majority (86%) of respondents anticipate no geographic change to the location of their office; however, over half (58%) anticipate reducing their office space by at least 10% from pre-COVID needs. Over one-third expect their office space to reduce by 25%.

58% of Fortune 500 executives surveyed anticipate reducing their office space from pre-COVID levels.

Remote-first cultures and hybrid models vary by industry

Three out of five executives believe up to 25% of their workforce will continue to work remotely full-time.

Technology and financial services organizations anticipate the largest remote workforce after the pandemic, at 40% and 35% of their staff remaining remote, respectively.

Top concerns about returning to the office

As employees return to the office, workplaces will likely say goodbye to old ways.

Executives anticipate various employee concerns about returning to work. Health and safety fears (40%), caregiving responsibilities (38%), and commuting on public transit (20%) are top concerns.

To reassure employee confidence in a safe return-to-work, executives are looking to measures such as onsite wellness clinics with rapid testing, temperature screening, and physical distancing.

Companies such as Credit Acceptance are staying in touch with the needs of their employees for safe return, with ongoing pulse surveys.

How to support a successful return to work

Both executives and employees point to several actions that can support a successful return to the office:

  • Ask employees what they want/need to feel safe
  • Set up employee task forces or advisory boards to keep a pulse on how people are feeling
  • Support managers to look for signs that employees need more/different support
  • Design common areas to create a healthy environment
  • Design spaces to boost collaboration and innovation among virtual and in-office employees
  • Explore options to support employee needs for childcare and safe commuting

How do your employees feel about returning to the office?

Are your employees more productive and happy working remotely? What are their top concerns about coming back to office HQ? And how will you serve them? Survey your employees with our pulse survey to find out and plan a safe return.

Marcus Erb

Author

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces™ in Asia by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

For All™ Methodology

Great Place To Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2023 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 450,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

For All™ Methodology

Great Place to Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2022 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 130,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Categories:
These organizations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

  • Small 10-99 Employees

For larger organizations with more than 100 employees, we also use our Culture Audit™ tool, asking organizations to share with us their practices, policies, and programs to create a great workplace For All™ and evaluate the approach they take.

  • Medium 100-999 Employees
  • Large 1000+ Employees

Why do you say in one place your national list scoring is based on 85%/15% and in another place that it is 75%/25%?

We are explaining two different things:
1.  The criteria we evaluate

  •  85% concerned with Trust and Maximizing Human Potential and
  • 15% concerned with everything else

2.  Where the data comes from

  • 100% Trust Index for organizations with less than 100 employees
  • 75% based on the Trust Index survey analytics and 25% based on responses to the Culture Audit for organizations with more than 100 employees.
For All™ Methodology

Great Place To Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2023 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 450,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Categories:
These organizations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

  • Small 10-99 Employees

For larger organizations with more than 100 employees, we also use our Culture Audit™ tool, asking organizations to share with us their practices, policies, and programs to create a great workplace For All™ and evaluate the approach they take.

  • Medium 100-999 Employees
  • Large 1000+ Employees