Two-thirds (66%) of global employers believe their organization is more innovative if employees are in the office, according to research unveiled today by VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW), a leading innovator in enterprise software.
Yet this is at odds with how employees feel about where they are most innovative and productive, with 82% of global employees having higher job satisfaction if they can work from anywhere and 64% who believe their working location policy negatively impacts their organization’s innovation efforts.
More than half (53%) of employees with anywhere and hybrid working policies, where they can work in an office and remotely, report increased morale, creativity (53%) and collaboration (52%) across their teams.
With growing economic uncertainty, business leaders could be driving employees back into the office with the hope that it will improve innovation and productivity but with little certainty on its real benefit. But, only a little more than a third (38%) of businesses admitted they have formal metrics in place to measure the impact of working location policies on innovation.
“Greater economic uncertainty is propelling businesses to become even more focused on productivity, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of all the progress made in more flexible working practices. All research has shown that productivity has not been thwarted by allowing hybrid working, as it creates happier, more engaged, more collaborative teams,” said Lorna Hardie, senior director of Sub-Saharan Africa, VMware. “Employees believe they can achieve their best work when given the choice of hybrid working, combined with the tools to support this, yet business leaders believe the office is where innovation is driven. Evidence suggests most companies are not measuring impact, so perception could in fact be outweighing reality.”
With almost three-quarters (72%) of firms planning to invest significantly more in their digital culture, and a third (33%) prioritising investments that fuel innovation and creativity – driving innovation to create business efficiencies, cut costs or increase market attractiveness is clearly a business imperative.
Automation and digital tools are helping organisations do more with less. More than half (53%) of businesses are investing in automation in an effort to increase employee productivity, 43% are looking for automation to help accelerate innovation and 50% to create faster and lower-cost operations. The highest levels of investment are concentrated amongst organizations with hybrid- or anywhere-work policies versus those with office-only policies, suggesting business innovation and productivity must be prioritised but not at the expense of working location flexibility.
“The mythical inflection point where all employees are office based is not going to happen. Companies must continue to strike the right balance between boosting innovation without crushing employee motivation and productivity. Investing in the digital collaboration tools, automation, and team-building policies to drive efficiencies and boost success, to deliver the flexibility of office or remote working – creates that balance,” concludes Hardie.
The survey was conducted by Vanson Bourne and commissioned by VMware — collecting global data from 5,300 HR, IT, and business decision makers and employee-level respondents from July to August of 2022, split across the following dimensions
Lorna Hardie is Senior Director Sub-Saharan Africa at VMware