Asia embraces work from home but bosses are still not very keen on saying yes to four-day week

The number of Asian businesses expecting employees to spend their entire working life operating from an office has plummeted during the pandemic, in a pivot to hybrid working that looks here to stay.

Although over half of companies in Asia expected their staff to work in the office full time before the pandemic, the number has now fallen to 13%, according to a questionnaire conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, a US-based education nonprofit.

Attitudes vary across the region. Singapore, Australia and New Zealand are most likely to embrace flexible working. China, Japan and India are the least receptive to it.

The survey, which compiled responses from 2,170 business leaders in 13 Asia-Pacific countries, also found that firms want their employees in the office at least some of the time. Only 7% of managers expected staff to work remotely completely, compared to just under 5% before Covid-19 struck.

Across the world, businesses are facing a backlash from employees as they seek to roll back work from home mandates that were introduced as Covid-19 spread. Younger workers, in particular, have embraced flexible working.

That’s reflected in the survey, with leaders acknowledging that around 34% of workers now expect to spend more than three quarters of their time in the office, down from 79% before the pandemic.

Attracting talent was mentioned by 42% of respondents as the second most important reason for adopting a hybrid working model, behind ensuring employees’ welfare. That’s also reflected in job postings. The number of applications for remote job postings on Linkedin jumped from near-zero in January 2020 to above 20% in India and 10% in Australia as of September.

Bloomberg

“Employee preferences are being weighted more heavily than ever, because of just how low unemployment is,” said Elisa Mallis, the Managing Director and Vice President of Asia-Pacific at the Center for Creative Leadership. Workers are willing to take even a 20% pay cut for remote roles, she added. “It’s not going back to the way things were.”

Limits persist for how willing Asian businesses are to entertain broader cultural shifts. While organizations and some high-profile voices have advocated for a four day workweek, just 2% of leaders favor it as the preferred model for the next five years.

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The survey, which polled businesses in conjunction with 15 organizations including the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and the Japan Association for Chief Human Resources Officers, was conducted over a 10-week period from June to August.

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