Return to the Workplace: Full-time work onsite and hybrid work on an equal footing

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37% of Belgian employers expect workers to return to work full time at their workplace by the end of the year, but 38% of them will also offer hybrid work arrangements


With the implementation of the second phase of the summer plan, the return to normality will accelerate in many sectors of society, and in companies as well. Although teleworking is no longer mandatory, it remains highly recommended. According to a ManpowerGroup survey, 37% of Belgian employers expect workers to be back in the workplace full time by the end of the year, but 38% of them will offer hybrid work arrangements. HR will play a crucial role in this post-covid world, where it will be a question of balancing companies’ needs, with the workers’ new expectations in the context of increasing talent shortages.


Over the next few months, the world of work will continue to operate in hybrid mode, alternating workplace based working and remote working. According to the ManpowerGroup survey, 37% of the 318 employers surveyed in Belgium will ask their workers to be back in the workplace all the time, 27% of them will favour a hybrid model that supports teleworking, while 19% of employers surveyed will choose a hybrid model prioritizing tasks performed in the workplace. Only 13% of employers surveyed will maintain full remote working and 4% of employers are undecided. More globally, 3 out of 4 Belgian employers will require at least 50% of their workforce to be based in the workplace all or most of the time, due to the type of roles they fulfill.


As the economic recovery gets underway, employers must mobilize their employees yet remain vigilant about compliance with health guidelines” explains Philippe Lacroix, Managing Director of ManpowerGroup BeLux. “During this phase, HR must design new organizational methods and reconcile their priorities with the new flexibility demands of employees. As our survey confirms, teleworking has shown there are limits in terms of well-being, productivity, collaboration and corporate culture. But it would be unrealistic to aim to get back to working life as it was before the health crisis. On the contrary, the challenge lies in offering more meaning to working together and to be creative in providing the life balance that we all aspire to. It is crucial to find ways to meet these expectations, since 83% of Belgian employers find it difficult to fill their vacancies. Flexibility has become a key element in attracting and retaining talent.

Beware of the mis-match between what employers expect and what workers want.

The survey highlighted employers’ reservations about teleworking: 25% of employers surveyed in Belgium believe that teleworking has had an adverse impact on the well-being of employees. Other concerns employers cited included productivity (23%), collaboration (19%) and corporate culture (11%). Innovation was mentioned by only 4% of employers.

Introduce more flexibility within the company

But teleworking is not the only way to add flexibility to company life, and the employers surveyed were open to building in new kinds of flexibility for roles traditionally seen as inflexible. Among the solutions proposed, 42% of the employers surveyed say they want to offer a blend of remote and workplace-based working, 40% recommend flexible start and finish times, 39% are moving towards flexible or shorter hours, 28% offer the choice between various work locations, 22% offer job sharing, while 16% say they do not want to offer any kind of flexibility.


Role of HR in the post-covid world

The health, economic and social crisis has strengthened the strategic role of HR, which will have to develop new organizational models and meet the many challenges companies face. The HR leaders  interviewed in Belgium want to put people back at the heart of their action and have set new priorities: in order, worker health and safety (68%), new work models – New Way of Working/NWOW – (40%), more upskilling, learning and development (16%), a more data-driven approach (9%), leadership and manager development (9%) and finally diversity, equality and inclusion (6%).

5 ways employers can improve the new normal for everyone

Now we have an opportunity to re-shape a future that is closer to what we know workers have wanted all along – more flexible, more virtual, more trusting and enabling a better blend of work and home life, whilst still allowing organizations to access talent that can work from anywhere ” explains Philippe Lacroix.

To achieve this, ManpowerGroup makes five recommendations for this transition phase:

1.Ask why. Why come back? Tasks that were never intended to be done remotely were performed efficiently. During this phase of returning to the workplace, it is important to answer the question: ‘Why come back?’ by giving meaning and providing added value.

2.Prioritize upskilling and learning and development. During the health crisis, digital transformation accelerated by putting skills under pressure. Encourage all of your staff to take ownership of their career paths by upgrading their skills.

3. Offer flexibility for the many, not the few. Offering employees the opportunity to work remotely isn’t the only way to offer flexible work and a better balance between work and home. For roles that need to be done in the workplace, offer staggeredstart and finish times, more flexible scheduling or better project management.

4. Pay attention to physical and emotional wellbeing. Feelings of isolation, stress, fear and anxiety will be a COVID-19 legacy. Prioritize emotional wellbeing, granting it the same importance as physical and organizational measures, so that your employees are confident, healthy and productive.

5. Build resilience and anchor it in the company culture. Companies must build a climate of trust and and be prepared to listen, to allow their staff to manage their priorities and work with less stress. To achieve this, invest in strong leadership and implement transparent communication and a culture promoting access to well-being.