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Businesses want employees back in office, but offer greater flexibility: Survey


Senior business leaders have a strong desire to bring employees back to the office but at the same time are willing to offer a greater degree of flexibility and choice, according to CBRE’s latest Asia Pacific Occupier Sentiment Survey.

Almost 47% of respondents plan to implement policies allowing office-based working with the option of working from home.

The number of companies intending to encourage employees to work from home and only come to the office when needed fell to just 6%, half of that recorded in 2020. However, several major organisations are conducting pilot studies into the feasibility of remote-based working before they commit to large scale implementation.

Even with the wider adoption of hybrid work, most companies expect employees to work in the office most of the time, with remote work likely to occur just one day per week.

The biggest shift from last year’s surveys is that 35% some employees who previously worked at the office every day expect to take up the option of working remotely one or two days per month.

“CBRE believes this shift in working patterns indicates that hybrid working will be the new norm. As most companies will continue to require employees to spend most of their working week in the office, the adoption of these practices will have only a limited downside impact on future office demand,” the report said.

Hybrid working is expected to see greater adoption among western multinationals, with recent months seeing several large multinationals announce plans to shift to a three days in the office working week. In contrast, Asian companies expect most of their employees will continue to work from the office most of the the time

With many markets succeeding in containing the pandemic and relaxing restrictions on business and social activity to some degree over the past six months, this year has seen a significant improvement in business sentiment across Asia Pacific.

About 71% of survey respondents believe current business conditions are improving, marking substantial progress from the two surveys CBRE conducted in October and April 2020.

Confidence was highest in Greater China and the Pacific, while India and Southeast Asia were less optimistic as they struggle to contain a new wave of infections.

The unpredictability of infection rates will continue to weigh on the pace of the regional recovery for the foreseeable future. However, the rapid increase in vaccination rates in mature Asia markets and the reopening of offices globally will further strengthen corporate confidence in the handling of the pandemic.

The survey noted a strong consensus that remote work eligibility and schedule should be governed by clear guidelines.

However, companies are still formulating best practices covering hybrid working policies. While several major firms recently announced formal remote working policies and office reopenings, some employees are asking for greater flexibility.

15% of respondents, most of which were Asian companies, believe remote working will not continue after the pandemic.

Many respondents have introduced digital booking systems for individuals or groups of workstations to manage attendance.

CBRE has also observed that a number of companies are offering incentives to lure staff back to the office, such as transportation subsidies and complimentary meals.

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