Procurement Professionals Prefer Hybrid Workplace Model, Post COVID-19

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By: Sakthi Prasad -- Content Director

09 May, 2021

Procurement Professionals Prefer Hybrid Workplace Model, Post COVID-19
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Data collection and compilation by Mirza Zack


procurement-professionals-prefer-hybrid-workplace-model-post-covid-19

  • Procurement professionals, in general, agree that sourcing operations can be managed smoothly from home
  • More women professionals prefer permanent work from home as compared to men
  • Overall, the procurement community prefers a hybrid approach
  • Several people raised doubts over effective stakeholder engagement via remote working 

The Covid-19 pandemic, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is an ongoing outbreak. Last year, at the peak of the pandemic, countries across the globe ended discretionary travel, instructed its citizens to avoid large gatherings, and work from home where possible.

A year later, many countries are slowly limping back to normalcy, but several countries are in the grips of devastating second wave of the pandemic.

For the past year or so, a majority of Procurement teams across the globe have been working from home. As the vaccination program against COVID-19 ramp up in many countries, the question now is will people be ready to go back to offices as they were used to in pre-Covid times?

In order to get a clear picture on the “back-to-office” sentiment, we ran a survey among users of Beroe LiVE, a community of thousands of procurement decision makers, to find answers to two key questions:

  • Are Procurement professionals willing to go back to office?
  • Can Procurement Operations be permanently managed out of employee homes?

The Survey

Sourcing and Supply Chain professionals from more than 580 companies across the globe participated in the survey. About 80 percent of respondents were from North America and Europe.

1) I am based in:

i am based in

About 47 percent of respondents said they have taken the COVID-19 vaccine, while 48 percent said they haven’t taken the vaccine yet. Roughly 5 percent said they won’t take the vaccine.

2) Have you taken the COVID-19 vaccine yet?

Have you taken the COVID-19 vaccine yet

3) From where are you currently working?

From where are you currently working

Nearly 62 percent of people continue to work from home, while 23 percent said they visit office once a while.

Here are the selected comments from respondents. We are not revealing their names as they are not authorised to speak on behalf of the company.

  • “Once or twice a week in the office. Rest of days home office”.
    Head of Group Procurement based in Europe
  • “I've worked from the office since the beginning”.
    Procurement Manager based in North America
     
  • “I have been fully operational in Office to date”.
    Procurement Manager based in Africa
     
  • “We work on alternative Teams and go into office in alternative weeks to ensure business continuity in case of any one team impacted by Covid infection”.
    Procurement Manager based in South-East Asia
     
  • “Returned to office full time in June 2020”.
    Procurement Manager based in Australia/New Zealand
     
  • “Visit office twice a week”.
    Procurement Director based in South Asia

4) If you are working from home, are you looking forward to return to your office/workplace?  

The verdict is split. One-third of respondents would like to go back to office, while another third of them not keen on visiting office. Nearly one-third of them were Neutral on this question.

If you are working from home, are you looking forward to return to your office/workplace

Also, in comparison, more percentage of women don’t prefer going back to office as compared to men.

Here are the selected comments from respondents. We are not revealing their names as they are not authorised to speak on behalf of the company.

  • “I am able to work from home effectively, if social distancing is still a requirement there is no benefit to returning to work at this time”.
    Procurement Manager based in Europe
     
  • “No, I do not want to ever go back to working and commuting so many hours.  I have no need to be in the office and it would be a waste of time”.
    Procurement Manager based in U.S.
     
  • “Very much so. Working from home is so isolating, we are not working from home, we are living at work. Tasks are much slower, collaboration with colleagues is poorer. Unable to print documents at home, unable to have those spontaneous moments with colleagues that add so much value and richness to the day to day work”.
    Procurement Manager based in Europe
     
  • I feel WFH comfortable than office”.
    Procurement Manager based in South Asia
  • Working more efficiently from Home”.
    Procurement Manager based in North America
  • “While working from home offers great flexibility, there are just some things that are easier to work from the office.  I also feel like we need the office environment to more easily collaborate and share ideas with our peers / counterparts.  However, that said, working from the office and meeting face / face with a mask on, is still not an ideal situation and hinders the sharing of ideas...as few people enjoy speaking while wearing a mask”.
    VP Procurement based in North America
  • “I work with business units across the globe and so working from an office doesn't make sense.  I am just as effective holding virtual meetings from the office as I am from home.  I look forward to the occasional meeting at the office with my global colleagues but don't see any value to sitting at a desk for the sake of it”.
    Procurement Director based in Europe

5) Are you nervous or worried about returning to office even after getting vaccinated against COVID-19?

While a majority of the respondents said they aren’t worried about returning to office after getting vaccinated against covid-19, nearly 40 percent of respondents did say there were worried.

Are you nervous or worried about returning to office even after getting vaccinated against COVID-19

Here are the selected comments from respondents. We are not revealing their names as they are not authorised to speak on behalf of the company.

  • “A lot of strains and I don't think going back in until a significant amount of time has passed and the significant % of the population are vaccinated”.
    Procurement Director based in North America
  • “I will always be at least a little worried until this is completely behind us.  I have an older mother with some health risks for COVID, so don't want to catch it and give it to her.  If I could always work from home for a week prior to visiting her, a lot of that worry about returning to the office would be relieved.  I am generally not worried about catching it myself”.
    VP Procurement based in North America
  • “I have an auto-immune disease and so don't feel comfortable being in an enclosed space with artificial ventilation until this disease is fully under control.  I may be taking precautions to prevent myself from getting Covid, but I have no idea if my colleagues are being equally considerate”.
    Procurement Director based in Europe
  • “Will probably get Covid again, but am not worried about it.”
    Category Manager based in Europe
  • “I now work permanently from home”.
    Procurement Manager based in North America
  • “Never left the office. Get back to work, quit acting like a scared child”.
    Procurement Manager based in North America

6) Would you be comfortable to work in an office setup that has ensured enough social distancing?

A majority of respondents have said they will be comfortable working in an office setup that will ensure enough social distancing.

Would you be comfortable to work in an office setup that has ensured enough social distancing

Here are the selected comments from respondents. We are not revealing their names as they are not authorised to speak on behalf of the company.

  • “What about my travel safety if I am using public transport”.
    Procurement Manager based in South Asia
  • “My role in Purchasing is globally based. Office will be only as needed based on coordination and training activities”.
    Purchasing Manager based in North America
  • “I think other things also need to be looked at - how safe the air conditioning and heating systems are, how crowded the elevators get, etc. Is the true social distancing even possible in downtown skyscrapers?  Also - the current setup (hoteling office concept, shared workspaces etc.) is not very conducive to having a clean hygienic environment.  Also - there is an issue of masks- will they continue being required?  That might be an issue for some people”.
    Category Manager based in North America
  • “Apart from Office, one is also exposed to outside the office environment like cafe/restaurant”.
    Category Manager based in South-East Asia
  • “Not worried about it anymore. I have been back in the office since last July....no issues”.
    Procurement Director based in North America
  • “I have been working in the office for the past six months already, and our company has done a very good job keeping us distanced, the offices cleaned and sanitized regularly, and making accommodations to ensure we are working in a very safe environment (still not 100% safe, but nothing ever is).  I feel that if people are starting to get out and socialize on a personal level, then we should be able to apply those same principles to the office situation”. 
    VP Procurement based in North America
  • Social distancing is only part of the issue.  It's about sharing a single ventilation system, about touching doors, office equipment, canteen, and toilet facilities”. 
    Procurement Director based in Europe

7) In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, are you worried about commuting to your office/workplace?

While 35 percent of respondents said they are worried about commute, a majority, 61 percent, said they aren’t worried.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, are you worried about commuting to your office/workplace

Here are the selected comments from respondents. We are not revealing their names as they are not authorised to speak on behalf of the company.

  • “Commuter trains were packing and often standing room only before they starting cutting back service due to declining ridership. I can't imagine what it will be like moving forward”.
    Procurement Director based in North America
  • “Commuting is now back to normal in Sydney”.
    Procurement leader based in Australia
  • “Very cramped on public transport (which is sole realistic option as parking is impossible near work)”.
    Procurement Director based in Europe
  • “This whole mindset of fear is being continued due to misinformation on the way viruses spread and the unfortunate notion this virus is fundamentally different than other similar pathogens”.
    Procurement Director based in North America
  • “Despite your extra ordinary care, you never know when the other persons besides you catch the COVID from outside”.
    Procurement leader based in South-East Asia
  • “I'm riding my bike, no worry. But with Public transportation, I'm worried”.
    Procurement Director based in Europe
  • “Not sure the question is about worrying, it’s a matter of time loss of commuting and the preparation it takes before leaving by the door primarily for working parents”.
    Procurement Director based in North America

8) Given a choice will you continue to work from home permanently?

It’s interesting to note that while a number of respondents said they don’t mind going back to office and also don’t fear the commute, a majority of them do prefer to work from home one way or the other. It shows that Procurement professionals have inkling towards hybrid approach wherein they would like to spend a day or two in a week at a workplace with other colleagues.

Given a choice will you continue to work from home permanently

Again, as in question no. 3 above, more percentage of women prefer to work from home permanently as compared to men. Whereas 30 percent of men disagree on the question of permanent work from home as compared to 23 percent of women.

Here are the selected comments from respondents. We are not revealing their names as they are not authorised to speak on behalf of the company.

  • “Hybrid approach will be the ideal”.
    Procurement Director based in North America
  • “Will work from home a couple of days but not full time”.
    VP Procurement based in North America
  • “I will have a hybrid schedule where I only go into the office 2 days a week”.
    Procurement Director based in North America
  • “I would like a blend on home and office working 2-3 days in the office a week would be good”.
    Category Manager based in Europe
  • “Working from home part time would be great”.
    Procurement Manager based in Middle East
  • “Not permanently but until majority of the population get vaccinated (say 70%)”.
    Strategic Sourcing Manager based in South-East Asia

9) Do you agree that Procurement operations can permanently be managed out of employee homes?

A majority, 64 percent, agree that Procurement operations can permanently be managed out of employee homes. Nearly 25 percent disagree and 11 percent of respondents stayed Neutral.

Do you agree that Procurement operations can permanently be managed out of employee homes

Women overwhelmingly voted in favour of this question as compared to men.

Here are the selected comments from respondents. We are not revealing their names as they are not authorised to speak on behalf of the company.

  • “We implemented a complete end-to -end procurement solution while fully remote (including testing, QA, training and support)”.
    C-Level official based in North America
  • “It depends upon what you mean by "Procurement Operations". If you are speaking to the back office work; possibly. However, there are so many stakeholder relationships that must be maintained in today's environment, there simply isn't any "good" way to make that happen virtually.  The reason it is working okay today, is ONLY because we have built our relationships up front (prior to Covid-19), and we can tap into those relationships to be successful.  If you are trying to build relationships virtually, that is where we would have an uphill battle when we have a turnover in stakeholder or within Procurement”.
    VP Procurement based in North America
  • “Still need a couple of days/week to understand customers and build relationships with support groups and suppliers”.
    VP Procurement based in North America
  • “While tenders can be run remotely, Procurement makes a substantial impact through supplier relationship management activity. Much of procurement's value proposition would be lost if the operation was run remotely. The procurement 'team dynamic' would be lost over time if there was never any social interaction”.
    Procurement Leader based in Australia
  • “Live by the computer, die by the computer. It's always good to be able to put eyes on the products”.
    Procurement Manager based in North America
  • “Procurement Operation will need to work together with the factory. And it will mean factory visit."
    Procurement Director based in South-East Asia
  • “A key activity for us is to interact with the business. if the business is back in the office we need to be where they are”.
    Procurement Manager based in Middle East
  • “Putting aside the social interaction, pure office work can be managed permanently from home, however meeting suppliers/sites & stakeholders cannot be permanently squeezed”.
    Category Manager based in Europe
  • “Strategic sourcing has demonstrated repeatedly that the organization can work from home permanently”.
    Procurement Manager based in North America
  • “In my role my stakeholders are Pan EU and therefore all contact is via remote means regardless where I am based unless I travel to their locations or they come to mine”.
    Procurement Manager based in Europe

10) As per you, normal business situation will be restored

A majority, 37 percent of respondents said they don’t know when normalcy will be restored.

As per you, normal business situation will be restored

  • “I think somewhat normal, IN THE US, once kids return to school for the year 2021-22.  So, basically by end of summer thing will resemble normal.  However, I think will really only begin to normalize and stabilize at something which we can expect going forward sometime in 2022, maybe by the end of this year if we're lucky”.
    VP Procurement based in North America
  • “I don't think at this time we can see whether we will ever get back to pre-pandemic 'normality'”.
    Procurement Director based in North America
  • “This pandemic situation probably shall take longer than we expected due to 2nd and 3rd wave passing all over the countries. I do hope that in about 1 year this situation can turn to be normal again slowly”.
    Buyer based in South-East Asia
  • “At this rate of vaccinations, I think it will take over 6 months. It might even take longer than that to get full confidence of people back, so full normalcy might take longer than 6 months”.
    Procurement Manager based in North America
  • “I think we need people to get used to the increased social contact, allowing them to function as normal. Currently, I think most people see working anywhere other than home a bit of a burden!”.
    Procurement Manager based in Europe
  • “Many countries are not in control, vaccination is only starting and the real root cause of the virus has not been found. Mutation strains are developing, prolonging the pandemic”.
    Procurement Manager based in Australia/New Zealand



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Peter Noll

good survey, the result - e.g tendency to remote work in procurement - could be expected, as the last year under Covid proved it works.

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