October 20, 2021 by Andrea Rajic
We can all agree that remote work is here to stay. 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. The following are a few of the most interesting observations, lessons, and stats we’ve picked up this past year that you are going to want to know as you explore your hybrid work environments and strategies.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), 83% of companies implemented remote work in some form or fashion. Employers and employees worldwide agree that remote work is making everyone’s lives better. According to Buffer’s survey, most remote workers would like to keep working like this until they retire, at least some of the time, and certainly recommend working remotely to other people.
While it’s true the pandemic accelerated the shift towards remote work, 99% of people who had a chance to experience remote work prior to COVID-19 confirm it’s the right choice for them. The ones who were obligated to start working from home when the pandemic hit aren’t any less satisfied with remote work: they’d like to keep doing it, as well.
With the world embracing remote work with such passion, it’s clear that flexible work models aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Actually, a Dropbox study found that between 25 and 30% of people will keep working remotely after the pandemic is over, at least several times a week. In the US, around 20% of workers won’t return to an office at all, according to a NBER Study.
And why is remote work so loved? Microsoft discovered a few critical reasons:
Hybrid work, where employees work both in the office and remotely, is emerging as a model that may work well for most employees and companies. Data from a Microsoft study is clear: the hybrid work model, due to the number of options and flexibility it provides, will be a pillar of the post-pandemic workplace.
Many employers, due to the nature of their work, cannot go fully remote, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like to explore more flexible ways of working to improve satisfaction. The hybrid work model allows employees and companies to strike a balance. It allows companies to give their workforce more freedom, which can help keep employees engaged and foster a positive company culture. It’s even predicted that it can boost workers’ productivity by over 4.5%, according to the NBER study.
According to Microsoft's latest research, 70% of workers want remote work to remain an option, while 65% would like more in-person encounters with colleagues. In response to employees' expectations, 66% of companies are thinking about redesigning working spaces and adjusting them to this blended working model.
Another survey shows that 64% of workers quite enjoyed telecommuting, of which 40% said they had achieved better work-life balance since they started working remotely. The ability to work from any location and achieve a flexible schedule are two options most employees emphasize as the most significant benefits of remote work in the article, “The 2021 State of Remote Work”.
PwC's US Remote Work Survey found the level of professional experience also influences one's thoughts regarding remote work. For instance, those with up to five years of professional experience are more likely to vote for a mixed working model, although around 30% of respondents say they would not want to work remotely more than one day per week. Less experienced workers prefer to go into the office because they "are more likely to feel less productive while working remotely."
Over half of workers across the US, UK, and Australia have become fond of hybrid work. Of course, they value their time in the office for the teamwork and socialization it provides. But after experiencing the benefits of telecommuting, employees would like to have both options available.
Hybrid work helps ensure better work-life balance and provides flexibility, which often leads to improved productivity.
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 to upgrade their home work spaces.
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”.
For around 80% of workers, hybrid work is the optimal choice, according to Accenture. Another study, done in Australia, France, and the UK, confirmed this and found why employees consider it ideal: they don’t want to give up on the perks of working remotely, but would still like to go to the office to socialize, bond, and collaborate.
Those who’ve had experience with hybrid work, praise the fact that it enabled better mental health and work relationships. Microsoft even found that around 17% of people cried with a coworker this year! The last two 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.
You may have heard it before, but we need to say it again - remote workers are more productive. It’s simply a fact. 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 remote work has been such a success, due to the newfound flexibility that gave them a better work-life balance.
These changes have led to serious re-evaluations in workers all over the world: they’re rethinking their career plans and priorities, and even consider moving, since they’re able to work remotely now.
At the same time, over 40% of workers said they were thinking about finding a new job. On the other hand, companies too are trying to find the best way to organize their work to attract and retain the employees they want.
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.
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. The most affected is Generation Z, where 60% of respondents claimed they’re surviving, rather than living.
The consequences of the shift to remote work are the following:
What can companies do to ensure the well-being of their workers? They can engage their workforce to build a community and provide them a sense of purpose, as well as invest in employee wellness strategies to address some of the challenges of hybrid work.
This shift to remote work has been anything but easy for employers, who were expected to navigate the crisis seamlessly, when, really, they were learning, scared, and just as confused as everyone else.
As employers took herculean efforts to make remote work, work, they have seen a number of benefits. According to GitLab, employers have seen:
Companies that 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. However, it does require a lot of trust between managers and workers, 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, the CEO of Doist, for Buffer’s report.
Another upside companies have seen is reflected in their finances: Dropbox found that employers are spending significantly less money on healthcare, office space, and overhead costs.
With all these benefits, it doesn’t come as a surprise that 46% of employers have decided to enable remote work for their employees - permanently.
Almost 40% of the world’s workforce reported their employees had relied on them for too much during the crisis. And while employees were the ones who experienced the toughest blow over the past two years - the leaders weren’t spared of unique challenges either.
One of the most serious problems for leaders is burnout. A Gitlab survey showed that 42% of people have struggled with it because boundaries between work and home life were difficult to maintain. Companies need to do a better job of encouraging workers to prioritize their private lives from time to time and take time off to recharge.
It will likely take introducing new policies on work-life balance that make employee wellbeing a top priority.
It’s believed that companies will need assistance from the government to implement policies regarding working hours and the use of technology, as well as setting boundaries and nurturing transparent communication between managers and employees. Set schedules will help everyone organize their non-work-related obligations better.
For those who are planning to go back to the office, which is at least half of the employees according to 75% of executives who participated in a study, it’s not going to be easy either. However, due to vaccines, we’re feeling more confident about the successful implementation of hybrid work.
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 last year, employee engagement has fallen to pre-COVID levels, and only 36% of American employees are engaged at work. And to make matters more complicated, 13% of employees are actively disengaged, meaning their workplace experience is strongly negative and they spread it to their coworkers.
Whether they’ll do it with employee check-ins, changing the organizational structure, improving wellbeing, 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 have quit their jobs in 2021 alone. Employees are getting the upper hand in workplace affairs, and they’re asking for flexibility and better work-life balance.
HR teams across the country and the world are now in charge to stop 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 65% of employees want to see their coworkers more, 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.
Hybrid work is the ultimate employee benefit in 2022, and supporting HR teams in making it happen seamlessly and efficiently should be a priority for companies across the US.
As the world prepares for what comes next, companies need to comprehensively look at how and where work gets done, and enable new hybrid models. The future of work will be:
If something is clear, it’s that flexible work is here to stay. Employees’ expectations about work have changed—they want more freedom and flexibility to achieve a better work-life balance. One in three workers indicated they would quit their job if their company eliminated the possibility of remote work.
New ways of working and new technologies are emerging, which require new workspaces. Employees can be productive when they have the resources and tools to work effectively, which includes a workspace that meets their needs (safe, connected, free from distractions, etc.).
To maximize productivity, employers need to ensure employees have everything they need to do their best work. This takes supporting employees, from both a technology and wellness perspective. Leaders must be cognizant of everything they are asking of their employees—reducing workloads may need to be their number one priority to avoid exhaustion. Companies also need to ensure they are fostering authenticity to promote strong bonds and a sense of purpose that can promote an employee’s well-being and productivity. The more virtual work environment will also require investments in tools that help employees work—over 60% of companies are planning to spend more money on collaboration tools to enable efficient hybrid work for their teams.
Talent can be anywhere in a hybrid work environment. Having an international career is now easier than ever before, because employees no longer need to relocate to join a team. Global hiring is on the rise, and new jobs are emerging, creating fantastic opportunities for talented individuals and companies all over the world.
Remote working positions are 67% more available than in the previous years, and companies worldwide have realized that giving employees freedom means getting much more in return.
Over 30% of executives believe they’ll need less office space due to the availability of remote work. Over the next 12 months, most companies are planning to change their real estate strategy— almost 90% of them. Many are opening satellite offices and making the main office a place where employees will be able to experience the company culture and forge a bond with their co-workers and brand.
To make the most out of their office spaces, leaders will need to rethink the role of their office space and determine how they’ll provide adequate support to their employees wherever they work from.
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 and schedule a demo.