Just one of five workers believe their employers are fully prepared to support hybrid working once the Covid-19 pandemic has ended, according to a new survey.

Sony Professional Solutions found that since the first lockdown in March last year, 51% of office workers feel their employers could have done more to support remote working, with just 30% feeling fully support in their home setup.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of office workers now expect to work remotely at least one day a week post-pandemic, with 65% expecting at least two days a week. Nearly a third (31%) believe a return to the office full-time won’t happen until 2022.

The study also showed that this new hybrid model of working is being led by 18-24 year olds, 75% of whom expect to work from home at least two days per week. Just 13% of the age group expect to ever return to full-time office working compared with 51% of 35-54 year olds.

The latest lockdown measures across the UK have also shifted workers’ expectations around a return to the office. In December, 20% of all age groups thought a return to the office wouldn’t happen until 2022 at the earliest, but new, tougher measures introduced in every part of the UK over Christmas and in the new year, that figure is now up to 35%.

To help employers, Sony shared its insights on the working trends that will likely emerge:

Work becomes flexible. Give people options

The pandemic has changed the way we work. Several leading companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Spotify have already embraced this new reality by setting permanent flexible working polices, more will follow.

The ‘Home’ is a new opportunity

The home office is clearly here to stay but it has a long way to go to be optimised for productivity, for health, for companies being able to monitor employee work, to improve collaboration, etc. Businesses will come pouring in with new ideas around Home Offices.

Collaboration becomes critical

Already a growing market pre-pandemic, collaboration technologies have become critical for businesses. With fewer people being able to interact together in person, innovation and productivity will rely on effective collaboration solutions.

Social spaces (virtual and physical)

Teams, Zoom, and other such virtual conference platforms are great but even when you’re looking at the other participants you’re never sure if they are just doing their emails or listening to what you’re saying. You can’t read body language, you can’t really look at people in the eye, and it’s hard to assess the vibe.

There’s a real gap between the social stimulation you get in-person compared to virtual interactions. As Aristotle said, humans are social creatures, and we need to be around people and feel a sense of community. So, this will be a key focus for offices, how to make people feel connected and satisfied socially.

Meeting rooms will become key

Further into the year, people will most likely work remotely when they just want to get work done, for individual focused work where they just require basic virtual meetings.

They will only visit the office for meetings, brainstorms and tasks that require collaboration. This means the key function of offices will be to have meetings. It’s hard to say if the meeting room market will grow because some companies will downsize their real estate footprints to save cost.

The design of meeting rooms however, will become more important. In terms of technology, this also means communication and collaboration technology will grow (cameras for conferencing, displays for presentations and conferencing, wireless presentation solutions, and a slew of new solutions for more creative collaboration).

Post covid-19 the meeting room will also be part of a wider chain of endpoints with people connecting to conversations from home and other offices.

Measuring people and places

This has been important for a few years but even more so now that more people are working remotely. Companies need to optimise the usage of space, as every square foot has a cost, so if space is not being used then it needs to be redesigned.

Being able to track how many people are going where and when will be key to make smarter investment (or divestment for real estate) decisions.

Measuring people at home might also become more accepted, for example checking who is working when and what they are working on. For now companies need to trust their employees but not all are capable of such trust, it will be interesting to see what develops here.