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Death of hybrid working not far off, warn CEOs

By Kyle Robbins | |6 minute read

Nearly two-thirds of global chief executive officers believe hybrid working will be a thing of the past by 2025.

The findings, released in KPMG’s 2023 CEO Outlook, paint an entirely different workplace to the one constructed in the three years since the COVID-19 pandemic washed onto Australian shores. At that time, employees were forced to work remotely in order to combat rising rates of COVID-19 cases and ensure a swift return to normal.

However, if employers and employees alike expected hybrid working arrangements to be a permanent fixture of the pandemic, these beliefs were quickly found to be misguided as hybrid working became as pertinent to modern professional culture as a morning coffee.


As a result of the trend’s increased uptake, more and more commercial office providers have turned to making their spaces hybrid-friendly, or, in the same vein as companies such as WeWork, have established offices tailored to remote working.

But, KPMG’s survey, conducted with 1,325 global CEOs over one month, found such initiatives could be obsolete within the next three years as 64 per cent anticipate a full return to office in that time, a result which remains in line with the results of the 2022 report.

While employees may feel offsided by these findings, nearly 90 per cent of CEOs expressed desire to provide rewards to employees who make an effort to return to office with favourable assignments, raises, or promotions.

KPMG believes “this sentiment underscores the persistence of traditional office-centric thinking among CEOs”.

“It comes against a backdrop of the debate surrounding hybrid working, which has had a largely positive impact on productivity over the past three years and has strong employee support, particularly among the younger generation of workers,” the report continued.

With the war for talent intensifying in recent years, KPMG International global head of people Nhlamu Dlomu said: “The evidence suggests a one-size-fits-all approach to return to office could be detrimental” for employers hunting the acquisition and retention of elite-level staff.

Elsewhere, with the rise of generative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) seemingly unstoppable in recent months, 70 per cent of KPMG respondents declared their intention to invest heavily in the technology, with just over half (52 per cent) expecting to see a return on investment within three to five years.

The number one reason for adopting AI and other generative technologies is increased profitability, nominated by 22 per cent of respondents who view automation and other resource-saving capabilities as a financially fortuitous venture.

However, even with an overarching willingness to introduce such technology, many CEOs recognised the risks it posed, with three-quarters citing relative ethical challenges as the top concern when it comes to generative AI implementation.

One of which is a lack of regulation, something that OpenAI chief executive officer and ChatGPT mastermind Sam Altman called for in May this year at a US Senate judiciary subcommittee on privacy, technology and law.

“Regulation of AI is essential,” Mr Altman stressed, adding that “regulatory intervention by governments will be critical to mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful models”.

“For a very new technology, we need a new framework,” Mr Altman insisted.

Such is the immeasurable power posed by AI; at the end of March, a letter calling for a slowdown of AI had over 1,000 signatories, including Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak. The letter called for a “pause to jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design”.

Outside of the regulatory risks posed by AI, 82 per cent of respondents feared the technology could also present new dangers by providing new cyber attack strategies for adversaries.

Despite an increased understanding of the potential threats posed by cyber attacks, over one-quarter of respondents believe they are unprepared for an attack, while 53 per cent expressed the opposite.

This article was originally featured in HR Leader’s sister brand, Real Estate Business.


Hybrid working

In a hybrid work environment, individuals are allowed to work from a different location occasionally but are still required to come into the office at least once a week. With the phrase "hybrid workplace," which denotes an office that may accommodate interactions between in-person and remote workers, "hybrid work" can also refer to a physical location.

Remote working

Professionals can use remote work as a working method to do business away from a regular office setting. It is predicated on the idea that work need not be carried out in a certain location to be successful.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.