2023 Learnings: 37 Hybrid Work Statistics to Remember

In 2023, workplace and people leaders saw how committed employees are to flexibility. From failed RTO rollouts to successful flexible work policies, companies focused on designing workplace strategies that cater to their business goals and employee populations. Wherever you are in your workplace design – one key insight is to base strategies on data. Internal data can come from working with workplace software and comparing that to external, macro data to understand trends.

We’ve compiled the most significant data points about the workplace from 2023:

Hybrid work isn’t going anywhere

in 2023, a predicted RTO movement mainly fell flat. Studies from WFHresearch.com show that the number of work-from-home (WFH) days has stabilized at 28% of working days in 2023.

According to this data, the pandemic increased the WFH level by as much as 40 years of pre-pandemic growth, and 30% of employees worked in a hybrid model during 2023.

Stanford economist Nick Bloom predicts that the number of WFH days will stay more or less the same in the next five years, peaking between 30 and 35% of working days, and this prediction is supported by employee demand for hybrid and remote work, which is still higher than the available jobs.

WFHResearch2023

Employees want flexibility the most…

A 2022 Gallup study suggested that hybrid work is the preferred model for over 50% of employees, yet in 2023, many companies insisted that culture and in-person meetups are what workers need the most.

Our Workplace Trend Report showed that flexibility is still #1 for employees, as 81% of them said they find flexibility to be very important. In comparison, only 30% said seeing coworkers in person is very important.

Employees value flexible work arrangements for a variety of reasons, depending on their stage of life, age, and lifestyle. Workers list work-life balance (87%), cutting down on commute time (77%), and improved focus when working from home (53%) as the most significant benefits of location flexibility.

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…but the need for collaboration is still strong.

The fact that employees value flexibility more than seeing each other in person doesn’t mean all is over for face-to-face collaboration. In fact, our product data at Gable shows a 24% increase in meeting room bookings compared to 2022 – a clear indicator that collaborative gatherings are becoming more valuable in the flexible workplace.

The value of in-person interactions is the strongest when it comes to building relationships and trust at work (86% of employees), getting to know the team (67%), and building better cross-functional relationships (65%).

Flexible work statistics

The workplace is no longer a dichotomy – it’s a spectrum

In 2023, if you were to judge by the media headlines, the workplace landscape seemed black and white: either five full days in the office with zero flexibility or fully remote globally distributed teams that never see each other.

It turns out it’s much more nuanced than that, and the workplace is no longer just the dichotomy of home and office. It is a spectrum, and there’s no prescribed way to work together.

Our Workplace Trend Report shows that when they’re not working from home, 59% of employees are working in several different locations and locations not operated by their company.

Where employees work

Companies across industries and sizes are taking note of these changes, and we’re seeing a bell curve of different policies and strategies – sometimes several of them in the same company. Our Workplace Strategy Spectrum shows this in an example of 13 companies with different approaches, employee populations, sizes, and industries:

Gable - Workplace Strategy Spectrum

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Organizations that take the pulse of their workforce, align employee feedback with business goals, and create strategies that work for their people tend to have high retention, satisfaction, and productivity among employees. Some examples to learn from are:

  • Tying brand values to workplace strategies: GoPro
  • Balancing between frontline and corporate employees: thredUP
  • Building Intentionality into a remote-first culture: Upwork
  • Defining what culture means and communicating it clearly: Zapier
  • Different workplace policies for various business units: Okta

Flexibility is fueling women’s ambition at work

This year’s Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey & Company and Lean In is dedicated to debunking myths about women’s progress in the workplace.

Out of the four myths it tackles has to do with women’s ambition and success at work, and it shows flexibility is critical in making those ambitions become reality:

  • Nine in ten women under the age of 30 want to be promoted to the next level, and three in four aspire to become senior leaders
  • One in five women say flexibility has helped them stay in their job or avoid reducing their hours
  • 38% of mothers with young children say that without workplace flexibility, they would have had to leave their company or reduce their work hours

Women In the Workplace 2023

Even though it’s sometimes suggested that women value flexibility more than men, the McKinsey and LeanIn study and our data at Gable show that’s not the case. Men and women care about flexibility equally and value it more than childcare benefits or paid leave.

Where the differences happen is in who benefits from in-person work – and that’s usually men. Women find flexibility essential to reconcile work and personal lives, prevent burnout, and grow in their careers without sacrificing family. Now, companies must ensure flexible models are available to all employees – especially women – so they can grow and thrive in their jobs.

Hone in on flexibility to achieve DE&I goals

If you care about DE&I, you need to care about flexibility. Data from BCG shows that women, caregivers and working parents, the LGBTQ+ community, and employees with disability all find flexibility very important when deciding whether or not to stay in their jobs.

BCG Making Flexible Work Work

Tying this back to women in the workplace, the report also shows women are 1.5 times more likely than men to prioritize flexibility, and there’s only a 3% difference between women caregivers and non-caregivers.

Companies haven’t established easy processes for in-person time

For employees who want to reap the rewards of in-person encounters, getting together with coworkers can be tricky to organize. 70% of employees say it’s not easy to coordinate a way to work in person with peers, while 37% say they only sometimes know where colleagues are working from.

This shows that for companies, connecting the dots between what employees want – intentional in-person time – with the reality of the process of operationalizing the flexible workplace, is still difficult to accomplish, which is why many of them revert to RTO mandates.

Coordinating in person work

Choice drives productivity

The best place to work is the one employees prefer. A new report on employee wellness from Gympass found that the push for work-life balance with prescribed in-office cadences and top-down mandates isn’t working.

Employees who work in their preferred location (Gympass calls them “matched”) report being better rested, more productive, and less likely to leave their jobs. This data corresponds with our findings: in our Workplace Trend Report, employees who have a say in their workplace schedule and flexibility are four times happier at work than those who don’t.

Gympass Wellbeing Study 2023

Data from BCG Henderson Institute also shows that top-down mandates lead to dissatisfaction, as 62% of their survey respondents claim they don’t have a say in their company’s workplace policy, and 24% aren’t happy with where they work.

As employees link workplace flexibility to their sense of well-being, the importance they place on choosing their schedules and location increases, leaving companies with RTO mandates struggling with increased retention and dissatisfaction.

In-person encounters need purpose and intention

An essential task for workplace leaders: find out when in-person encounters have the most impact on your company. Numbers from Microsoft show there are specific times when seeing each other in person is critical. Their internal data points to three moments when in-person time is most beneficial for their workforce:

This approach seems to be working for Microsoft, as 93% of their employees are confident in their ability to work together as a team, regardless of location, and 92% say they believe the company values flexibility and allows them to work in a way that works best for them.

Microsoft Hybrid Work Data

Managers are struggling with leading hybrid and remote teams

Understanding how to manage remote and hybrid employees is a blocker for the long-term adoption of remote or hybrid workplaces. This process gap is best illustrated in Sequoia’s 2023 Return To Office Pulse Survey: while 57% of employees think they are more productive remotely than in the office, only 14% of managers share this opinion.

Managers say their biggest challenge when managing remote teams is building culture (59%), while employees cite building team connections (35%), feeling isolated at times (27%), and difficulties in learning from peers (15%) as their biggest challenges.

To resolve this gap and get all stakeholders on the same page, people and workplace leaders need to invest in better performance management, organizational goal-setting, and manager enablement.

The takeaway: it’s time to evolve your workplace strategy

The biggest takeaway from 2023 is that there is no singular workplace strategy most companies adhere to. The workplace is no longer a box where employees go every day, it is a dynamic, data-driven system.

At Gable, we give you an easy way to optimize this system. From decreasing costs to increasing employee happiness, our clients are making sure their workplaces evolve as fast as their business needs do. In 2024, operationalize your flexible workplace and make any strategy easy to deploy, manage, and track.

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Andrea Rajic