80% of PH employees favor office comeback but …

MELBOURNE, Australia— Contrary to popular belief that most employees want to work from home forever, eight in 10 workers from the Philippines favor going back to the office at least a few days weekly to better collaborate, brainstorm and socialize with colleagues in the postpandemic world.

This is based on a research conducted by technology conglomerate Cisco, which shows that only less than 1 percent of surveyed employees in the Philippines have quit when required to return to their offices. This marks the lowest attrition rate in Asia-Pacific, where the average is 5 percent.

Unveiled during the Cisco Live conference here, the study “From Mandate to Magnet: The Race to Reimagine Workplaces and Workspaces for a Hybrid Future” finds that 93 percent of companies in the Philippines have mandated either a full or partial return to the office. This is higher than the 79 percent average of companies in the region that have summoned back their workers.

Nearly half of Asia-Pacific employers (46 percent) choose to require partial office work while 33 percent now mandate full office work. The key drivers are desire for better productivity and team communication, alongside leadership pressure.

The remaining 21 percent do not mandate any office reporting.

In the Philippines, 47 percent of surveyed companies require several days of office work per week, while 46 percent mandate a full return to the office. The remaining 7 percent have not mandated any office clock-in.

But while most surveyed employees want to go to the office at least a few times a week, more than half of them believe that prepandemic office settings no longer fit their purpose.
“Our study reveals that employees across the region have embraced hybrid work and are willing to return to the office more often, but with a caveat: workspaces must adapt to their evolving needs and expectations,” says Sandeep Mehra, Cisco Asia-Pacific managing director for collaboration sales.

“The whole commute is so challenging. In the world that we live in, the office has to earn the commute,” he stresses in an interview. “If I’m making the commute, it has to deliver a very different experience.”

Mehra says employers must thus prioritize the evolution of office spaces and technology to meet the needs of employees.

Employees’ motivation for office comeback has significantly evolved, the survey shows. The three main reasons for their return is not individual work, but to collaborate (82 percent), interact and socialize (68 percent) and ideate and brainstorm with colleagues (65 percent).Workplace needs to change

But across the Philippines, 37 percent of employees believe that their offices don’t enable them to perform at the top of their game. When referring to office layouts and seating arrangements, 73 percent feel these are not conducive to collaboration and brainstorming purposes. While there is a growing emphasis on collaboration, 78 percent of employers surveyed still allocate at least half of their offices to individual workspace.

On a positive note, the study reveals that organizations are making progress to transform their offices. Eight out of 10 employers have made postpandemic changes and 89 percent plan to do more in the next two years. The main drivers of transformation include technological advancements (63 percent), changing employee expectations (54 percent) and desire to enable better hybrid work (42 percent).

“Employers’ progress in deploying collaborative technologies for hybrid work is commendable, but simply providing the tools isn’t enough. Most employees don’t feel prepared to use them effectively,” says Mehra.

“As an example, only 39 percent employees feel highly equipped to use video conferencing and just 29 percent feel well-equipped to use advanced tools like footprint monitoring or smart meeting room assistants. We need to focus on integrating these tools into the workplace to facilitate a smooth transition to this new work normal and ensure these technologies are accessible and user-friendly for all.”

In the next two years, 69 percent of Philippine employers forecast that the average employee will be a hybrid worker.

At present, those on hybrid working arrangements across Asia-Pacific typically go to the office three to four days a week. Employers across the region also report that 44 percent of all interactions have someone joining remotely, and they see multiple benefits from collaboration technology.

The study is based on a survey of 9,200 full-time employees and 1,650 employers in November 2023, covering Australia, Hong Kong, India, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea.