March 19, 2023 by Andrea Rajic
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As the first workplace-as-a-service platform, we’ve seen firsthand how work is changing and what companies (and employees) need to be successful in new, hybrid work environments.
While some employers demand RTO (Return To the Office), others will embrace more flexible work arrangements and combine remote work options with occasional in-office meetings in flex workspaces.
Whatever strategy you choose for your remote workforce, the following are the most interesting observations, lessons, and statistics we’ve picked up this past year that you’ll want to know.
What we called the “new normal” in 2020 is now mainstream. According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work report, 49% of companies operate as fully remote, while 27% of them combine remote and in-office work.
According to a LinkedIn study, 55% of the US workforce who participated in the survey believes their industry can effectively work remotely, especially in the digital sector, where this percentage increases even more.
Employees are mostly happy with the choice their employers have made. In fact, their 22% happier than their peers working from an office, according to Owl Labs. Almost 100% of employees say they’d like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers, while only 2% wouldn’t do it or recommend remote work to others.
On the same note, over half of the respondents in the Buffer study would keep working from home, while 41% of employees would prefer co-working spaces or traveling around while working.
In 2022, 59% of employees worked from home at least occasionally, and over 60% of employees would be prepared to look for a new job if the company refused to provide remote work opportunities. Others would take a pay cut if that meant they could keep telecommuting, according to GoodHire’s survey featuring the state of remote work trends among American employees.
Another survey shows that 40% of respondents said they had achieved a better work-life balance since they started working remotely. The ability to work from any location and achieve a flexible schedule are two of the most significant benefits of remote work that make employees happy—and employee happiness is a reliable indicator of company profitability.
Recent productivity statistics favor what remote workers want: flexibility in where they work from. A study done by Dropbox showed that in some cases, the increase reached 35%, as employees ditched the commute, allowing them to work shorter hours and feel refreshed. 79% of workers confirm that telework has been such a success due to the flexibility that gave them a better work-life balance, also contributing to improved mental health.
These changes have led to serious re-evaluations in workers all over the world: they’re rethinking their career plans and priorities and even considering moving since they’re able to work remotely now.
Microsoft uncovered the main reason why companies are persistent about employees working on-site: there’s a so-called “remote employee productivity paranoia” going on, where employers are (still) unsure their workers are as productive while working from home.
While employees feel their productivity has increased thanks to the remote working model, they still feel they could use more help from the management: 81% of employees say they need assistance in prioritizing their tasks.
For around 80% of workers, hybrid work is the optimal choice, according to Accenture. Having the option to work remotely at least some of the time is a highly desired benefit for the global workforce, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to develop strategies to build trust in remote teams and bridge this gap between managers and workers.
The key to success for both sides is open communication, regular feedback (in both directions), and clear guidelines, processes, and expectations for employees to rely on.
According to a McKinsey & Company study, “Gen Z sees hybrid work as the most attractive” work option. Most Gen Zers declare themselves digital nomads who are interested in working two to three days from home. Hybrid work allows flexibility, the one characteristic Gen Z cherishes the most.
Although you may think Gen Z is the best fit for a remote model, some show the excitement of going back to the office. Why?
Working only from home requires a particular level of financial freedom. It assumes that workers have (or want) a space they can set up and dedicate to their work, which is often true for higher-income earners. Researchers found that, on average, workers invested 15 hours of time and $560 in upgrading their home workspaces.
The research, as reported in a Weforum article, found that “Respondents were more likely to work from home if they worked in the service sector, were raising children, and lived in Democratic-leaning states”.
The researchers went on to say, "The benefits of a persistent shift to WFH will be broadly felt but flow mainly to the better-educated and the highly paid”.
Gen Z is the first generation actively and loudly standing up to toxic work cultures. The younger portion of the workforce is saying “no” to overworking themselves, toxic bosses, and prioritizing their mental health, pushing employers to speed up the adoption of employee wellness programs. Some companies took the first step by offering a Mental Health Day, which 63% of employees used over the past 12 months and felt a positive impact on their job performance (78%).
The dark side of hybrid and remote work models is reflected in the lack of structure and discipline that employees may experience outside of the office. Some employers still struggle with designing adequate remote work policies, with around two-thirds of companies still working without a proper async work policy in place. This lack of clear guidelines and expectations often leads to burnout, a serious condition affecting both the physical and mental health of employees.
This leads to irregular working hours and procrastination, which ultimately causes exhaustion. The Microsoft study confirmed that constant burnout is actually hiding behind high productivity, with 54% of participants claiming they feel overworked, while 25% of them feel like they can’t unplug from work even when their workday is over.
How can hybrid work help here? Those who’ve experienced it praise the fact that hybrid work enabled better mental health and work relationships. Psychology Today confirms that building positive relationships with friends, family, coworkers, and community is the one thing that actually makes us happy, and NBRI finds that employee satisfaction “skyrockets nearly 50%” among workers who have built close relationships with colleagues.
Microsoft even found that around 17% of people cried with a coworker at some point during 2021! The last few years haven’t been easy, but apparently, sharing how we feel with our colleagues can help a lot—it helped 31% of people feel less embarrassed when their personal life affects their workplace productivity.
Gallup found that the importance of having a best friend at work is consistently increasing, making it critical for companies to focus on helping employees establish meaningful connections. This is more challenging when you have a remote job than when you work with people in person, but there are plenty of ways to help workers feel connected and encourage them to make friends from their home offices.
Buffer’s survey revealed the following top benefits employees value in remote and hybrid work models:
FlexJobs’s research also shows that 75% of employees appreciate the fact that they can save more money when working from home.
Despite these benefits, employees often struggle with the feeling of loneliness, which brings us back to the meaningful connections remote workers should be able to build at work. In Buffer’s study, data shows that 21% of workers struggle with staying home too often because they have no reason to go out.
“Other solutions are to work from local coworking spaces and cafes and actively work on building the social life we want. But as remote workers, we need to be more proactive at doing that because, unlike traditional office work, with remote work getting friends physically near you doesn't happen by itself."
This is a critical spot where companies can step in and support their workforce. Employers also need to be intentional in helping workers feel less lonely. One solution is to offer access to flexible workspaces. Learn more about what benefits of flex workspaces you can experience as an employer.
As employers took herculean efforts to make remote work, work, they have seen a number of benefits. According to GitLab, employers have seen:
Future Forum’s 2022 surveys confirmed: flexible employers will reap multiple benefits of offering flexible work schedules and similar benefits, including 36% greater sense of belonging and 50% increased job satisfaction. These positive outcomes could lead to employees staying with employers longer and being more engaged in contributing to overall business goals.
Another upside companies have seen is reflected in their finances: employers are spending significantly less money on healthcare (as employees take fewer sick days) and office space (as renting a flexible workspace for occasional meetings is way more affordable).
However, with employees getting more demanding in terms of job conditions and employee benefits, employers struggle to maintain employee retention rates steady. This is why employee retention strategies will become the top priority for 22% of employers, as opposed to only 8% who will focus mainly on talent acquisition, according to Lattice.
To boost employee retention, employers focus on building attractive benefits packages. In 2022, SHRM polled HR professionals to find out what kind of employee benefits they’ll be offering in the years to come:
As they adopt flexible work, many companies will switch to async-first as well. Employers who can manage an engaging hybrid work environment and efficient asynchronous communication contribute to their workforce productivity by eliminating the constant pings and interruptions typically attributed to unscheduled meetings and messages. Miro found that 59% of knowledge workers brainstorm asynchronously rather than in real-time because it provides more flexibility and feels less stressful, among other reasons.
However, async work does require a lot of trust between managers and workers and clear policies, so it may not be so easy to implement.
“Async-first will not appeal to everyone. It requires high trust and independent people who can manage their work and remain accountable with little or no direction. Most people don't operate with high trust or high independence,” says Amir Salihefendić, founder and CEO of Doist, for Buffer’s report.
Still, it’s worth a shot. Over 70% of respondents in Miro’s study are confident the entire team would thrive if they implemented async work, and their work culture would improve.
All employers and managers have faced challenges in the previous two years, but the ones in front of HR and People Operations functions are quite specific. Here’s what awaits these teams in a post-pandemic workplace:
According to a Gallup survey from 2022, employee engagement has dropped, showing a downward trend: only 32% of US employees feel engaged at work (compared to 36% in 2020), and 18% of them feel actively disengaged (compared to 13% in 2020).
Whether they’ll do it with employee check-ins, changing the organizational structure, improving well-being, or all of the above - it’s up to the People functions to improve how employees feel and act about their work and do it before they quit.
With low engagement, high rates of burnout, and an unprecedented disruption of work globally, it’s no wonder we’re now in the midst of The Great Resignation, and 30 million US workers quit their jobs in 2021 alone. Statista confirms with their latest data that this trend is far from over: in November 2022, 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs. Employees have been getting the upper hand in workplace affairs for quite some time now, and they’re asking for flexibility and better work-life balance.
HR teams across the country and the world are now in charge of stopping employees from leaving. They’re focusing less on perks like ping pong tables and bean bag chairs and more on supporting employees in critical moments like work anniversaries, parenthood and childcare, and career growth opportunities.
In 2022, employee experience is more important than ever, and this time, it comes with a digital component. With the realization that every place where people can do their job is now the workplace, the scope of employee experience has grown exponentially.
The primary mission for people operations managers is to design and implement employee experiences that focus on inclusion, belonging, and engagement. Employees need to feel like they belong and see the impact and purpose of their work, whether they work in an office or they’re completely remote.
With hybrid work gaining more traction by the day, People Operations and HR managers are faced with challenges that are completely new. In a world where 72% of employees want to spend more time with their coworkers, it’s the People Operations department that needs to make this happen.
However, providing workspace options for distributed teams in many locations at once is neither easy nor cheap if you go the traditional way. Scaling flexible workspace locations up and down and managing them from a single platform is a life-saver for many HR teams, as is the chance to manage the hybrid workforce and measure their productivity from the same, unified place.
As the world prepares for what comes next, companies must comprehensively look at how and where work gets done and enable new hybrid models. The future of work will be:
The uncertainty and physical distance of the last few years have made us rethink the elements of work that we used to consider necessary, such as the office or face time.
Today, with virtual meetings, communication tools, employee wellness programs, coworking, flexible workspace, and more, companies have the options they need to create effective hybrid work strategies that work better for employees and, ultimately, the business.
We are happy to help you come up with interesting solutions to your workspace problems, so you can make remote work, work for everyone. Simply reach out to us here.
Foster connections in your remote team
Cater to employees’ needs and give them flexibility without burdening your workload. Provide workspaces, set budgets and policies, and track usage and trends to stay in the loop.