The vaccine roll-out may bring the world closer to pre-pandemic times, but it seems the workplace has changed forever. Nine in 10 employees in Southeast Asia want flexibility in where and when they work, and six out of 10 would consider leaving their job if they are not offered such options.
According to the EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, only 15% of employees surveyed from Southeast Asia would prefer to work from office full time.
The majority would prefer to work anywhere (32%), work remotely full time (29%), or in a hybrid work arrangement (23%).
Conducted in March 2021, the global survey heard from more than 16,000 employees across 16 countries and 23 industries, including 1,037 respondents across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Millennials represented more than half of all respondents, and the survey targeted those who worked at companies with at least 500 employees.
See: 8 in 10 Singapore employees prefer to work from home, but are employers equally keen?
On average, employees would want to work between two and three days remotely, with 35% of employees saying they want a shorter working week altogether. The majority (69%) believe their productivity can be accurately measured irrespective of location. Yet, there is a strong perception (86%) that this arrangement would impact their access to career opportunities.
Despite the apparent willingness to move jobs for more flexible working arrangements, most employee respondents (78%) say they are satisfied with their jobs, and almost all (91%) say they plan to stay in their current roles for the following 12 months.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a major shift in where we work, when we work and how we work. Employers that promote hybrid work arrangements and provide the flexibility for employees to work anywhere and anytime, are ahead of the curve,” says Tan Lay Keng, Asean people advisory services leader at EY.
“These employers are likely to have better employee attraction, retention and satisfaction in the long run, which could positively impact the business,” she adds.
Are current practices working?
The survey also canvassed attitudes to existing work practices, with employee respondents broadly positive about the impact of remote working. Almost half (53%) say their organisational culture has changed and improved during the course of the pandemic, while only 31% believe it has worsened.
The majority of respondents agreed that a mix of onsite and remote work would increase the company’s productivity (73%) and creativity (75%).
See also: Making work-from-home part of business planning
As employers adapted to offer hybrid work arrangements, work-life balance also came into question. Respondents observed changes ranging from establishing “meeting- or email-free” times for the team (49%), setting aside time on calendar for individual work (45%), establishing clear working hours for work-life balance (44%), using productivity tools (42%) and reducing meeting times to allow for breaks in between meetings (31%).
Tech upgrade needed
Flexible working is leading to more demands for technology, both on-site and in the home office. Some 73% of respondents say they want better technology in the office, such as faster internet and video conferencing tools.
Meanwhile, 52% say they want companies to upgrade their hardware at home, such as by providing extra monitors and headsets, while 51% would like reimbursement for high-speed internet or mobile expenses.
Despite the ease and adoption of video conferencing, workers are still eager to travel, whether for business or otherwise. Some 67% of those surveyed would like to travel for business moderately to extensively after the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As companies seek to reposition for growth in the recovery from the pandemic, their talent is likely to be their most important asset,” says Tan. “Employers will need to constantly review their employee engagement strategies, the impact of employee sentiments on culture and productivity, and the technological investments that are needed to sustain an optimised in-person, hybrid and digital work experience.”