A striking 75% of CEOs said that they expect their office spaces to shrink in the future because of anywhere work. The stakes for this decision are high: Companies must effectively deliver customer obsession, which, in turn, depends upon activating a great employee experience. We have previously encouraged the move to anywhere work — a strategy that improves employee engagement, leading to better customer outcomes, and that provides the technological, cultural, and leadership resources to support work from any location. However, some C-level leaders have reservations about anywhere work. It’s true that hybrid work is difficult to execute and manage.

Given their own unique and diverse workplaces across European countries, companies in Europe should develop their own distinct approach to work. Findings from Forrester’s European pandemic surveys underline that the anywhere-work concept should play a central role in this endeavor. The transformation toward anywhere work implies tackling transformation issues across the domains of technology, process, and corporate culture as well as adjusting talent management and corporate management approaches.

Big Differences Among European Countries Persist

Finland, Luxembourg, and Ireland are leading the transformation toward anywhere-work-like conditions across Europe. Forrester also detects large differences among businesses in different sectors and types of workforces. For instance, businesses with a large segment of their workforce working as frontline workers rather than office workers tend to lag behind firms with mostly office-based workers.

A Holistic Approach Is Required

The boldness of business efforts toward anywhere-work transformation is reflected by how holistic their approach to work transformation is. Here are some great examples from Europe:

  • Zurich Insurance in the UK focuses primarily on implanting a permanent flexible working policy. Employees are offered the flexibility to work from home on a full- or part-time basis. The goal is to improve the quality of employees’ lives and, in return, to create a far happier and more productive workforce.
  • Siemens goes one step further. It introduced mobile working two to three days a week as a permanent worldwide standard. This means that Siemens needs to tailor its anywhere-work policies to local legal requirements, demands of job profiles, and individual employee preferences. To plan and oversee the anywhere-work policy, Siemens involves representatives from strategy, HR, IT, Siemens Real Estate, and from its business divisions. Siemens fully understands that this initiative depends on the transformation of its leadership and corporate culture. In turn, Siemens hopes to sharpen its profile as a flexible and attractive employer.
  • BioMérieux, a French healthcare diagnostics provider, goes even further. It is embracing a multidimensional approach to creating and maintaining a new working environment. This involves adapting work areas such as its offices, production sites, and research centers; introducing technologies for remote information sharing and collaborative work; creating and fostering internal employee communities; and implementing a work-life balance program. BioMérieux’s approach is based on the close cooperation between management and union representatives.

a man working from his couch

Anywhere Work In Europe Depends On Emerging Legislation

There is no EU-wide regulatory framework yet. However, different countries are starting to enact legislation governing remote working conditions.

  • Portugal: Employers are banned from contacting their employees after work hours and need to provide money for expenses incurred by home working.
  • Germany: It is mandatory for employers to offer staff the opportunity to work from home as long as there are no compelling operational reasons for not doing so.
  • Ireland: An employer needs a very good excuse to decline a request to work from home.
  • In Spain, an employer must provide all the means, equipment, and tools necessary to render services but may monitor the activity of the employee to verify the level of compliance.
  • France: Employers must come up with a good reason for saying no to requests for remote working.

Not Everyone Can Fully Expect Anywhere-Work Conditions

Clearly frontline workers cannot work from home. But not everyone is equally keen to work from home. We have spoken to a large food business in Barcelona, where staff are extremely eager to come back to the office, as many live in small or shared apartments. A medium healthcare equipment manufacturer in Germany explained to us that new hires want to spend as much time in a physical office where they can learn more from senior colleagues rather than working remotely.

And yet, surveys clearly point to signs that employee expectations are shifting and increasing toward flexible work, especially among young, talented, and skilled employees. One-third of UK workers are less inclined to apply for a job if remote working isn’t an option. German employees now want to spend only 3.4 days in the office — down from 4.5 before the pandemic. To make physical office attendance by employees worthwhile, companies must provide more in-person collaboration, group thinking, team building, social interaction, and physical training.

Cloud, Network, And Automation Technologies Are Key Enablers

Related are efforts to boost cybersecurity for remote-work and e-commerce environments. There is a trend to embrace cloud as a more secure solution than on-premises security. The increased use of remote working and mobility means that there is a boom in home broadband and unlimited mobile data packages. Remote tech support to assist remote and anywhere workers is also in big demand. Forrester predicts an increase in usage of automation for self-service portals, bots, and employee monitoring tools to meet tax and other compliance issues.

Find out more in a discussion with my colleagues Thomas Husson, VP, principal analyst, and James McQuivey, VP, research director. Watch the full video replay of our LinkedIn Live chat below, and follow us on LinkedIn to not miss any updates.