Where will Switzerland be working after the COVID-19 pandemic?

As the coronavirus pandemic hit, companies turned to remote working as an experiment – unplanned, but largely successful. Now, many employees want to stay in their home office at least part of their working time. How should companies respond?

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us more about viruses, face coverings and reproduction numbers than we previously knew – or perhaps ever wanted to know. And the business world has been on a similar learning curve as it has explored remote working and home office. Many employees had little experience of working from home and digital meetings before COVID-19, but in March 2020, a majority had to get to grips with new ways of working virtually overnight.

Home office is here to stay
In the spring of 2020, we demonstrated that the pandemic was fuelling the trend towards working in home office. Over recent years, the proportion of employees working from home for at least half a day a week has risen by about one percentage point a year, from 18 per cent in 2013 to 24 per cent in 2018. The start of the pandemic saw this figure doubling to about half of respondents. But now that there is finally light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, it is time to ask: what is the future of home office?

A recent representative online survey conducted by Deloitte Switzerland of 2,000 16- to 64-year-olds living in Switzerland shows what would change if individuals could choose where they preferred to work. Of those whose job can be done from home, the largest group (37%) would prefer to work in home office for at least half of the working time. Strikingly, one in four (26%) would prefer to work solely from home, and only around one in eight (12%) would prefer to return to the pre-pandemic model and work solely in the office. Home office is clearly here to stay.

Preference of home office linked with perceptions of productivity
There are a number of reasons why working from home is popular: for example, employees no longer have long commutes to work, have greater flexibility in organising their time and are able to work in the comfort of their own home. The findings of our survey also show that almost half of all employees (47%) believe they work more productively from home than in the office. Only around one in six (16%) report that they are less productive when working in home office. There is also a direct correlation between respondents’ self-assessment of their productivity and their preference for working from home: the more productive they believe they are when working in home office, the more working time they would like to spend doing so. However, it should be noted that employees’ self-assessment could be somewhat biased and may therefore not provide a fully accurate picture.