The COVID-19 pandemic is still far from over, and the long-term societal changes brought on by this tumultuous time period remain to be seen. But if there's one area that's already experienced a fundamental shift -- perhaps to the point of no return -- it just might be the modern workplace.
According to a new PwC survey examining employee priorities and the future of work, the pandemic has empowered knowledge workers to demand more flexibility, higher pay, and better work/life balance from their employers.
"The past 18 months have been a learning experience and an experiment in how people work," the report states. "As a result, more than a quarter (28%) of employees and executives strongly agree they are making permanent changes to how and where work gets done based on lessons learned from the pandemic. Companies are going to have to continue to change the way they work to retain talent."
Among the key takeaways from the survey is that companies insistent on having employees come back to work in an office every day will face significant backlash and resistance from those who've grown accustomed to the flexibility of remote work.
Almost 20% of all employees surveyed said they want to remain fully remote beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority prefer a hybrid model with a variation of in-office and remote days, the survey found.
Meanwhile, 65% of employees are currently looking for a new job, up from 36% in May, and a vast majority of executives say they are seeing higher than usual turnover. The number one reason employees state they are looking for a new job is a better salary, followed by benefits.
For the employees seeking new opportunities, the top incentives are more flexibility, expanded benefits and higher compensation.
The PwC survey also looked at how employees view vaccine mandates as part of return-to-office plans. The survey found that 2/3 of executives and 2/3 of employees favor a vaccine mandate as a condition of being able to work in person at an office.
"We are still very split as to whether to mandate and whether employers should take a leadership role on this point," PwC said in the survey. "Additionally, 44% of executives say they will take a leadership role in encouraging employees to get vaccinated over the next 12 months."