Perspectives

Executives share their plans for returning to the workplace

New normal work models are here to stay

In April 2021, Deloitte launched a survey asking our clients how they were approaching their return to the workplace. Here’s what they had to say about timing, health and safety measures, business travel policies, new normal work models, and more.

Download industry deep dives of the results

Deloitte clients weigh in with their return-to-workplace plans

Almost a year after the COVID-19 pandemic changed how and where most of us work, we heard from 275 Deloitte clients about their plans to return to the workplace. Here’s what they had to say:

“Work from anywhere” is everywhere right now, but for how long?

There was no indication of a permanent shift to full-time virtual work in the “new normal.” While 67% of the organizations we surveyed remain fully remote today, 64% are planning a physical return to the workplace—either fully or in a hybrid capacity—at some point in 2021. When including those that have already returned, at least 89% will be back in the workplace in 2021.

 

COVID-19 safety measures remain top of mind

As employers prepare for their workforces to return, 91% say they will require masks, and 89% will require social distancing.

As for vaccinations, two-thirds said they would encourage their employees to get vaccinated before returning; however, only 9% said they would need proof of vaccination before in-person return.

 

In the physical workplace, less is more

With return-to-workplace plans already underway, many employers have reconsidered their physical footprint. More than one-third of the organizations we surveyed said they plan to return to the same office space they had before the pandemic, while 39% of them expect to reduce their office spaces by 2022. Those planning for a hybrid strategy are 4.5 times more likely to expect a reduction in office space greater than 10%.

 

Business travel reintroduced and reduced

Perhaps the most drastic of changes we can expect to see in "new normal" work is a reduction in business travel across the board. Of the clients we surveyed, 69% said they expect travel budgets to be reduced to at least 75% of what they were prepandemic.

However, that doesn’t mean that all business travel will come to an end. In fact, 34% of respondents said they already allow work-related travel, such as clients in the consumer (43%) and financial services (42%) industries, or plan to reintroduce it in 2021.

 

Employers are concerned about the transition to workplaces

With the shift to more virtual interactions—and as more organizations begin to imagine what a return-to-workplace transition might look like—many
employers are unsure what to expect. 32% are worried about “maintaining company culture,” and 26% are worried about whether a return to the workplace might affect performance. Other concerns included “effective collaboration” (19%); fairness and equitability among remote, hybrid, and onsite workers (13%); and employees’ desire to return to in-person work after having worked remotely for about a year (10%).

 

Looking ahead to a new normal

When we launched our Return to Workplaces survey, we set out to understand how executives across industries were approaching their returns to in-person work postpandemic. While many are still formulating a long-term vision, near-term plans to return to workplaces have begun to emerge, ushering in an opportunity for organizations to reimagine how and where work gets done. The future of work is here!

Driven by accelerating connectivity, new talent models, and cognitive technologies, work is changing. Jobs are being reinvented, creating the “unleashed workforce”—where work is redefined to create new value and meaning for organizations, employees, stakeholders, and communities. Learn more about the Future of Work.

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