COVID-19 has Raised
Employee Expectations about Working Life

The Adecco Group’s latest research, ‘Resetting Normal‘ reveals an emerging shift in many of the entrenched working patterns that have held for generations. In the post COVID-19 world, there is a clear gap between the expectations of workers and the capabilities of organisations in rising to meet them.

Will the post pandemic world of work be better? Raised expectations about working life mean that only 39% of UK employees believe in the ‘better normal’. Despite large scale disruption, 55% of UK employees were happy with their working life experience during the pandemic and 86% believe their employer is most responsible for ensuring a better working world after the pandemic. The Adecco Group’s study, which assessed the attitudes of 8,000 white collar workers during and after lockdown, identified five key trends that will define the new era of work:

  1. The world is ready for ‘hybrid working’

79% of employees want more flexibility in how and where they work and 77% believe that a mix of office-based and remote working is best. How should this be split? Ideally half of the working week spent in the office, and half working remotely. In the new era of work, flexible working needs to be embraced as a desired practice rather than something that happens because of an emergency. Employees told us that they appreciate the value of working remotely where they can concentrate on ‘deep thought’ work and avoid lost time commuting, and they see the benefit of working in a shared office environment where teams can collaborate face to face.

  1. The end of the 9-5?

76% of UK employees say it’s important to maintain flexibility in their work schedule and 74% believe that contracts should be based on results rather than hours worked. The work that we do is changing, the working environments we inhabit are changing, and there is a rising call to rethink how productivity is assessed. Does this spell the end for the 9-5 job? Employees who are struggling to juggle the competing demands of a busy personal life and a satisfying and successful career would like more autonomy in framing their working hours and style.  This is a departure from what was once the norm for many businesses, where ‘time at desk’ was considered important.

  1. The high EQ leader

81% of employees say managers met or exceeded their expectations during the pandemic. Moving forwards, employees want their managers to demonstrate a leadership style focused on empathy and a supportive attitude (81%) and to place trust in employees to get the job done (85%).  It’s clear that expectations of leaders have risen over the past few months. The new breed of leader must be empathetic, a clear communicator, considerate of the wellbeing of their employees, and able to foster a working relationship based on mutual trust. Leaders will need to invest in their upskilling to lead teams in the new era of work.

  1. Universal appetite for mass upskilling

Employees told us that the most important training, resources and support for them after the pandemic are digital and remote working skills (72%), managing staff remotely (70%) and training on company platforms (70%). Right now, employees are extremely receptive to reskilling and upskilling and 30% of employees said they’d move jobs for a role where they can learn new skills. Digital and softer skills were called out as the most important across all markets. Businesses have an opportunity to capitalise on this desire to learn and in doing so, build their talent base for the future.

  1. Employers most trusted to “reset normal”

Employers have gained trust during the pandemic.  88% of employees say that their employer met or exceeded their expectations in adapting to the challenges of the pandemic and 68% trust their employer to support them during any future crises. Having gained trust, employers now have a responsibility to fulfil that trust, not just in extreme conditions, but in all conditions. This rise in reputation equity leads to higher expectations and employers are the most trusted entity to usher in the ‘better normal’.

  1. Creating Brighter Futures

Employees in our study painted a clear picture of what a ‘better normal’ looks like. The shift towards flexibility, lifelong learning and multi-dimensional leadership will only be fully realised if enabling structural changes are made. It’s therefore vital that employees, employers, and policymakers share the responsibility of shaping a new working model. We have a rare window to do so.