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Future of Work Wednesday: Two Years After The Pandemic Began, Here’s How Work Has Changed Forever

future of work
Britta Schellenberg
Published on

It’s a cliche’ to say that the pandemic has changed everything, but it truly has, especially when it comes to the way we all work. Employers who think they can implement Return to Office (RTO) plans that simply hit the “reset to 2019 button” are in for a big surprise, one that includes employee churn, lost productivity, and endless pushback.

We’ve just reached the “unofficial” two-year anniversary of the pandemic, and one thing remains certain: employees don’t want to go back to 2019, especially on flexible work schedules. 

Let’s dig into some recent news from the world of hybrid work that informs the now-evolving future of work. 

MarketWatch: How the pandemic changed everything, including how we work

A March 14 article in MarketWatch centered on the two-year anniversary of the pandemic by exploring the many aspects of life that the pandemic has changed. Among my favorites: “We all became armchair epidemiologists” and “telehealth is finally part of everyday healthcare.”

But since I work at Robin, and since we seek to prioritize employee experience in a hybrid work world, two other pandemic-driven changes stood out for me. 

  • Under the heading, “What will Big Tech’s return to the office look like?,” MarketWatch explains that “the advent of a hybrid approach led tech executives to reassess future work schedules and office floor plans given the unpredictability of the virus and its variants. Workspaces were redesigned, employees signed up for occasional office visits through “hoteling,” and two- to three-day in-person work weeks were drawn up.
  • Under the heading, “Not everyone is going back to the office,” MarketWatch notes that “the return to the office isn’t one-size-fits-all. More than 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue after the pandemic.” Nearly half of U.S. workers said they’d be willing to take a pay cut in order to continue working remotely at least part of the time, according to a report cited in the article.

Survey: Hybrid work option now more important than salary or paid time off

A new Bankrate survey released on March 14 had some fascinating insights about employee expectations as offices begin to re-open. 

“Many workers have grown accustomed to the flexibility of a hybrid or remote work environment and are asking their employers to make it a permanent fixture in the workplace,” says the survey’s introduction, “with some [employees] even citing it as a greater priority than higher pay.” Other findings:

  • When employees were asked which factors about work have become more important to them after the pandemic, the ability to work from home or to work a flexible/hybrid schedule ranked at the top, cited by 55% of surveyed employees. Amazingly, the need for flexibility came ahead of the two most important pre-pandemic job factors, higher pay (52%) and more vacation time (29%)
  • Perhaps the most eye-opening Bankrate survey finding for employers, the one that should give them the most food for thought, is that 51% of surveyed employees reported being likely or somewhat likely to be looking for a new job in the next 12 months. You may not want to push them too hard on returning to the “pre-pandemic office of 2019.”

As both the Bankrate survey and the Marketwatch 2-year anniversary of the pandemic article make abundantly clear, employee expectations for flexible work have grown significantly since 2020 and no employer can afford to miss that fact. Employers who don’t consider employee demands for flexibility will see employees voting with their feet and finding flexible work elsewhere.

Protocol: Why software company Gusto is hiring a Head of Remote Experience

Organizations that want to not only retain their top talent, but also attract more top employees, are shifting their focus to supporting hybrid work models that prioritize employee experience. New leadership roles have emerged, as we’ve discussed before in FoWW, including Director of Employee Experience, Hybrid Work Director, and more.

Protocol just published a great interview with the chief people officer (CPO) at Gusto, the HR software company. Danielle Mastrangel Brown, Gusto’s CPO, discussed why the thriving company with 1,800 employees across the globe is now hiring a Head of Remote Experience.

Mastrangel Brown detailed 3 distinct “working styles” at Gusto: 

  1. Fully remote  
  2. Fully in-office
  3. Hybrid work. 

That third approach is complex and Mastrangel Brown realizes it’s the future of work: “how do you manage this hybrid workforce where some folks are going to be physically present in person, some are going to be fully remote and some are a blend of both? We realized this [hybrid] working style is going to be here to stay,” Mastrangel Brown says  “it's going to be the future and we're going to need to be ahead of the curve.”

Gusto’s goal is to offer employees a great experience no matter how they work, says Mastrangel Brown: “the first mistake you [can] make is making assumptions about what people want . . .different things work for different people. I'm glad that we've opened up the widest set of options so we can get the widest pool of talent.” 

Gusto seeks to retain and attract talent by offering employees “flexibility and the ability to change,” says Mastrangel Brown, “because life changes, and what worked for you [before] might not work today.” 

If we’ve learned anything over the last two years, it’s that change is constant and we need to be flexible enough to accommodate it. 

Thanks for reading Future of Work Wednesdays and all the best as you drive the future of work within your organization! 

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