Over the last year, the world has proven that meeting, events, and collaborating are central components to the way we work, live, and connect as a society at large. We’ve seen great efforts put into place to continue gathering virtually during stay-at-home orders as a reactionary tool, but during this process we’ve also identified some key benefits that remote working can continue to bring as we begin thinking about in-person gathering, but more specifically, how we work and meet. Among these are widening the addressable participation to a larger geographic region, the savings on resources for commuting and travel, and the ability to offer more flexibility in where and how people live and work.

Hybrid – a combination of in-person and remote – meetings, events, and workplaces allow these benefits to continue, but beyond these advantages, this dynamic has also become the preferred workplace approach for over two thirds of full-time employees. 

As household names like Apple and Microsoft  continue to adopt hybrid models, and another 77% of business leaders intend to use a hybrid model through next year, this prevalence has become undeniable.

In order to continue delivering value to our clients and the future of the workplace, meetings, and events, Convene has been researching deeper into the topic of hybrid. We commissioned a 3rd party research consultancy to survey nearly 1,000 full time employees across various roles, industries, and U.S. geographies, in order to take a closer look at concerns, interests, and trends being observed in today’s workplace and how stakeholders felt about hybrid workplaces, meetings and events. 

From the Top

At the leadership level, the survey worked to understand what struggles executives were facing as a result of the pandemic, finding that retaining and attracting talent are among the top two pain points being experienced by this demographic.

Pain points that executives are noticing as a result of COVID-19

Our research also showed that executive level leaders are concerned about supporting their talent in a few ways. First, for veteran employees, there is concern about developing strategies to train them in the use of new tech tools. And secondly, they are nervous about the level of training newer employees are receiving without hands-on in-person oversight. While these surveyed leaders feel a return to the office will be good for culture and collaboration, they also wonder if productivity will suffer and more importantly – will employees want to return to the workplace?

Employee Preference: More Important than Ever

A survey done by Morning Consult on behalf of Prudential found that 87% of American workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would prefer to continue doing so at least one day a week. Furthermore, nearly 70% of respondents stated a hybrid model would work best for them, and most importantly, 42% of current remote workers said they would look for a new job if their employer stopped offering the option to work remotely.

With workers quitting their jobs at the highest rates in twenty years (nearly 4.3 million people quit in August 2021, alone), this preference is not being ignored. Brian Welle, VP of people analytics at Google, recently predicted that he expects workers to place a premium on control, such as where and when to work, and that workplaces will need to listen to their preferences and that there is no return to the status quo. As such, he shared, “Where we ended up as a company is offering as much flexibility as we could to enable Google employees to optimize for themselves, while also giving teams what they needed.”

Convene’s survey validated this approach. When taking a closer look at full-time employee preferences, the survey found that teams were split on where they preferred to work, and what they prioritized as important in their workplace. While a third of the respondents enjoyed working from the office and access to their co-workers, another third preferred the privacy of working from home, and the remaining preferred various third-party locations to suit their needs. When asked for the top reasons on wanting to meet in person, 31% of respondents said that they felt they liked that they could learn something new, and 24% said that they enjoyed the socialization.

Preferences of where to work, and what was important in a workplace varied across those surveyed, with no one-size-fits-all solution for the entirety of those polled.

Employees desired location of work are mixed (hybrid) and their preferences are based around access

The same survey echoed similarly varied results when employees were asked about how often they wanted to meet with colleagues in person, either at company events (social or educational) or outside of regular meetings. Out of the 1,000 polled, 76% said that they wanted to meet at least once every three months, almost half of respondents wanted to meet once a month, and 8% said that they preferred not to meet in person at all. Amongst high-performing employees, the desire to meet more frequently increased, with 84% stating that they wanted to meet on at least a quarterly basis.

Defining Hybrid

When our survey respondents were asked how they defined hybrid, many full-time employees said that hybrid would allow them to split their time fairly evenly between working at home and in the office. The commissioned survey results reinforced this sentiment: 24% of employees voted that they valued their private space, and 25% expressed that they enjoyed proximity to coworkers. What pointed to how influential hybrid formats could be, however, was that an overwhelming 58% voted that technology (including internet) was the most important factor to consider in the workplace — above meeting rooms (13%), supplies (18%), company social events (11%), and access to coffee, snacks, and food (9%) combined. Furthermore, we found that 37% of all employees prefer a hybrid meeting format, with the option to interact with people in person or remotely. This number includes 44% of high-performers, 40% of women, 44% of millennials, and 44% of employees that have less than 10 years of experience.

But, this preference for hybrid and flexible dynamics goes beyond where employees will want to work, but also how they meet and host events.

When comparing high-performer full-time employees versus low-performers in those surveyed, high-performers were more likely to believe meetings were worthwhile to their work, but are intentional about how, where, and why they are meeting. This group enjoys hybrid formats for company-wide meetings and brainstorming sessions, while preferring meeting rooms and company happy hours for in-person workshopping, socializing and gathering.

Full time employees are split between hybrid and in-person formats

Evolving Hybrid

It’s clear that hybrid has the potential to be more than just splitting time evenly between the office and home, but to instead offering flexible environments and tools to meet and work. With this hybrid work is evolving into a holistic work strategy, which joins workplace solutions and meetings/events solutions to put people at the center of the conversation about work by purposefully planning and choosing environments that enable them to their fullest potential.

If you’re interested in learning more about holistic work strategies, and how to incorporate them into your workplace, email info@convene.com.