What global WFH data says about hybrid work

And how you can use these insights to push back on blanket RTO mandates.

After three-plus years of working from home, organizations across the nation and world are using the weeks post-Labor Day to implement part or full-time returns to the office.

In a recent report by Resume Builder, 90% of companies surveyed said they planned a return to the office (RTO) by the end of next year. But the return to office issue isn’t a monolith, and it varies across locations and cultures.

During a time when organizations have an increasingly global footprint, communicators share with leaders that there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for RTO and that working from home (WFH) has wide variations across global regions. This makes a fresh case for revisiting hybrid work arrangements.

WFH patterns across the globe

The idea of working from home took hold in many parts of the world at the height of the pandemic, but it didn’t have the same staying power everywhere. WFH Research’s Working From Home Around the Globe 2023 Report, compiled research from Stanford, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, and the Ifo Institute to reveal several interesting data points:

  • 67% of employees surveyed globally worked in the office full-time, followed by 26% in a hybrid situation, and 8% fully remote.
  • Work-from-home levels were highest in English-speaking countries, with 1.4 days per week working from home. These figures with less prominent in Latin America and South Africa (0.9 days) continental Europe (0.8) days and Asia (0.7) days.
  • Employees across the globe averaged 2.0 desired work-from-home days, with those in the English-speaking world and Latin America/South Africa desiring more than two days at home per week, and those in Europe and Asia desiring slightly less time at home.

Take note, global organizations — the situation isn’t going to be the same everywhere. It’s incumbent upon communicators to tailor their messaging — and policies — around WFH norms depending upon the local cultural and social quirks.

If your organization has offices across a region where WFH isn’t prominent, you might not need a full-on rollout of updated policies and messaging. But crafting messaging isn’t the only factor at play here. It also involves recognizing the cultural influences involved.

Cultural and social influences

The study found that across the globe, people found various benefits of being in the office, including:

  • Socializing with coworkers – 62%
  • Increased in-person collaboration – 54%
  • Clear boundaries between work time and personal time – 43%

On the inverse, employees in the survey across the globe also found a lack of a commute (60%), savings on gas and lunch costs (44%), and greater flexibility over work hours (42%) as some of the top perks of working at home.

These numbers emphasize how WFH preferences might be different in areas where employees live in smaller dwellings with multiple family members than it is for those who live in a region where home offices are more prominent.

In places like the United States, however, where workplace cultural norms like “water cooler talk” are a long-held part of an office job, employees might look forward to socializing with people in their physical workspaces.

Communicators need to be attuned to the differences across cultures and manage their messaging accordingly, as RTO, WFH and the future of hybrid work aren’t going to look the same everywhere, even within one company.

Asking the right questions about RTO

Within any organization, different job functions can also have distinct hybrid work arrangements— though making the case for a hybrid is tricky when an RTO order comes down from on high.

In such instances, communications leaders can ask leaders and managers across functions which roles might work better in the office and which can work sustainably at home, then begin to draft an alternative hybrid work strategy that takes into account global cultural and social preferences.

It starts by asking a few simple questions.

This full story is available exclusively to members of the Communications Leadership Council. For more information on how to join and access additional resources, click here.


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