Reimagining Work Where Flexibility is Key

15th June 2021

Posted In: The Topic

Over half (54%) of employees would consider leaving their job post-COVID-19 pandemic if they are not afforded some form of flexibility in where and when they work, according to the EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, an international study conducted among more than 16,000 employees across 16 countries and multiple industries and positions.


According to the data nine in ten employees now want flexibility in where and when they work. Given the choice, more than half of employee respondents (54%) would choose flexibility in when they work. By comparison, 40% want flexibility in where they work.

On average, employees would want to work between two and three days remotely after the pandemic. When pandemic restrictions ease in their countries, 22% would prefer to work full time in the office, with 33% of employee respondents saying they want a shorter working week altogether.

More than half (67%) believe their productivity can be accurately measured irrespective of location.

Job retention

The employees most likely to move jobs include managers/leaders, those with technology or finance roles, and caregivers. Those most likely to stay in their current roles include baby boomers, individuals with 10+ years of tenure, and those in government or education roles.

Attitudes to job retention differ by age, with millennials twice as likely as baby boomers to quit.

Despite the apparent willingness to move jobs for more flexible working arrangements, most employee respondents (76%) say they are satisfied with their jobs, and almost all (93%) say they plan to stay in their current roles for the following 12 months.

Work from anywhere requires increased technology investments

The prospect of increasingly widespread flexible working is leading to more demands for technology, both on-site and in the home office. Sixty-four percent of respondents say they want better technology in the office (e.g. faster internet and video conferencing), almost half (48%) say they want companies to upgrade at-home hardware (e.g. extra monitors and headsets), and almost the same proportion (47%) would like re-imbursement for high-speed internet/phone expenses. However, despite the shift toward new ways of working and the rapid adoption of virtual meeting technology, 67% would like to travel for business moderately to extensively after the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase from 49% in the previous survey, which was conducted in 2020.

Health and safety

The survey also explored employees’ views on the COVID-19 vaccine and found that 61% want their company to make vaccination a pre-requisite for working from the office. Attitudes toward vaccinations vary between geographies, with 66% of respondents in South America agreeing that companies should require vaccination of all employees, compared with a comparative low of 52% in EMEIA.

Laura Flynn, Head of People Consulting, EY Ireland says: “Talent attraction and retention is an ever present challenge for businesses however what we’re seeing in our research findings is that now more than ever, employees are willing to switch jobs if their employer isn’t able to give them the flexibility that they desire.

The pandemic has shown us that flexibility can and does work for both employees and employers when the right balance is struck between employee and business needs.

What’s clear however is that flexible working is the new currency in the war for talent and those businesses who want to keep the best people now and into the future will need to make sure that flexible working is central to their talent strategy.”

Remote working and organisational culture

The survey also assessed attitudes to existing work practices, with employee respondents broadly positive about the impact of remote working.

Almost half (48%) say their organisational culture has changed and improved during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, while only 31% believe it has worsened.

Laura added:

“It’s fascinating to see in our research that, globally, remote working doesn’t seem to have impacted culture as much as we might have thought.

“While we are seeing this amongst some Irish organisations, others are taking this time to reflect on culture and in particular on inclusion and belonging which will no doubt be important for hybrid working models.

As we look toward the longer-term and as organisations continue to transform their operations, employers will need to consistently re-assess conceptions of productivity and the impact on their cultures, and importantly, ensure that their approach is optimised for the in-person, hybrid and digital work experience.”