Future of Work Wednesdays: A Snapshot of Hybrid Work Trends
The Future Forum Pulse Survey (free download), conducted every quarter since June of 2020, polls 10,000 + employees in 6 countries (including the US and UK) about their attitudes around hybrid work. Over the last two years, the Pulse Survey has become a must-read for anyone interested in hybrid work trends. The latest survey, which Future Forum describes as a “Summer Snapshot,” was released a few weeks ago.
As the Summer begins to wane and Autumn begins to loom, now seems like a great time to remind ourselves where employee sentiment is around hybrid work. Described below are some of the key findings of Future Forum’s “summer snapshot.”
Strong Demand for Workplace Flexibility Remains
The Pulse summer survey shows that 80% of today’s workers want flexibility in where they work. Even more eye-opening, 55% of knowledge workers said they’d prefer to work fewer than three days a week in the office.
In the US, 69% of people are currently working in flexible work arrangements, either hybrid or fully-remote. Yet people, especially underrepresented groups (88% of Asian-Americans; 83% of blacks; 81% of Hispanics), are demanding even more flexibility around where they work. Employees with rigid work schedules are the least happy and are 3x more likely to “definitely” be looking for a new job.
Brian Elliott, Executive Leader of Future Forum, encapsulated the summer survey’s findings: “Today’s workplace environment is centered around flexibility, and employees without it remain at a strong risk of attrition. Companies looking to build productive, successful teams need to think about how they provide flexibility not only in where but also when people work.”
Rigid Schedule Hurt Productivity and Employee Experience
The Pulse Survey reports that fully in-office workers are “the least satisfied with their working arrangements.” These people report significantly worse employee experience scores compared to hybrid and full-time remote employees, most notably for work-life balance and work-related stress and anxiety. Knowledge workers who say they have little to no ability to set their own hours report:
- 3.4x worse work-related stress and anxiety as compared to workers with schedule flexibility; and
- 2.2x worse work-life balance as compared to workers with schedule flexibility.
It’s no wonder that these stressed-out employees are 3X more likely to quit (and looking to join organizations offering flexible work options).
Survey Says: The Office Remains Important
While employees continue to recognize the office as an important locus for collaboration and culture-building, they also see the office’s primary purpose as shifting. When asked what factors bring them into the office:
- 74% said: Collaborating with co-workers/clients, building camaraderie, and facilitating in-person meetings.
- 16% said: Having a quiet space to focus on getting my work done.
- 10% said: Putting in face time with management.
As my colleague Brendan O’Neil is fond of saying, “today’s office needs a purpose, and organizations now need to give their people a compelling reason to come in.” Treating your employees like unruly teenagers (“you have to come into the office because I’m the boss and I said so”), is a terrible idea for employee experience and talent retention.
Digital Tools Enable Flexibility
Respondents to the summer Pulse Survey clearly viewed digital tools as key enablers of building connections with their workplaces and colleagues. In fact, the prevalence and use of digital tools are highly correlated with improved productivity and better employee experiences. People who work at companies they describe as “technology innovators” show consistently higher employee experience scores compared to those who describe their employers as “technology laggards,” including:
- 1.5x higher scores on productivity;
- 2x higher scores on sense of belonging; and
- 2.5x higher scores on overall satisfaction.
Technology and data matter for hybrid work. At Robin, we’re driven by data. We like to see relevant data before we make decisions. When we don’t know something, we ask questions and then investigate the available data in search of insights and answers. That’s how we 1) seek to better understand what our clients want and 2) help our clients better understand what their people want
While we have strong opinions about following a data-informed and iterative process of learning, we’re agnostic about the particular outcomes. We know that one size will never fit all organizations when it comes to hybrid work.
Conclusions from the “Summer Snapshot”
The Future Forum summer snapshot described above leaves us with a few major takeaways:
- People continue to want workplace flexibility (80% want it), and underrepresented groups want it even more.
- Rigid work schedules significantly reduce people’s productivity and employee experience.
- People will leave organizations that don’t offer flexible work options: in fact, they are 3x more likely to “definitely” be looking for a new job.
- Although no longer the default workplace, the office will continue to serve an essential role in collaboration, connection, and culture-building.
- Digital tools are key enablers of hybrid work: organizations that leverage technology have significantly improved productivity rates and offer better employee experiences.
Interested in learning more about what this all means for office spaces? Check out our 2022 Office Space Report for insights from workplace leaders and hybrid experts.