Only 28% of employees feel that the hybrid work models offered by their organisation suit their preferences, despite most offices now opening to workers.
A survey of 530 European employers by law firm Littler found that 52% were proceeding with return to office dates, while 36% had delayed due to a range of factors including government guidance and vaccination levels.
Most employers (57%) surveyed by Littler expect that offering some element of remote work will improve job satisfaction, while 54% argue that it will improve work-life balance.
Just over a third (34%) believe a model incorporating office and remote work will enable greater productivity, 31% think it will reduce physical office costs and a fifth say it will reduce overall company costs.
Back-to-work plans vary depending on the country, according to Littler. A higher percentage of employers in France (65%) or Italy (62%) are preparing for staff to return to the office, compared to just 28% in Germany.
“Broadly speaking, European employers have been eager to bring their employees back into the workplace – in part due to safety policies implemented and enforced by EU governments,” said Laura Jousselin, Littler partner in France.
“Though these policies can help usher along return-to-office plans, amid the wide-ranging novel and complex issues this pandemic continues to bring, employers also remain nimble and focused on adjusting their plans as the situation evolves.”
Over half (52%) of employers believe workers want hybrid or remote work to a greater extent than they can offer as an organisation, it added, particularly in the UK, Germany and Spain.
Furthermore, two-thirds (67%) are at least somewhat concerned about the legal and logistical challenges that could arise if the workforce is split between in-person and remote work. Six in 10 showed an interest in using software tools that track remote productivity.
They are also focused on the mental wellbeing of staff – 73% said they were concerned about the toll the pandemic had taken on mental health and were taking measures such as offering flexible work schedules and training for managers.
A positive trend shown in Littler’s survey was that 60% of respondents have not had to make workforce reductions this year, and 41% do not plan to do so in the future. Among those that have made reductions, just under half of that group do not anticipate further change.
However, Raoul Parekh, Littler partner in the UK, warned that “the full repercussions of the pandemic aren’t behind us yet”.
“Government support programs saved millions of European jobs throughout the pandemic, and our survey data supports the effectiveness of these efforts,” he said.
“The decisions executives make about how to structure their businesses for the long term, and the impact of the wind-down of government support, will continue to transform workforces across Europe in the months to come.”