A Pulse survey conducted by Future Forum, a consortium launched by Slack with founding partners Boston Consulting Group, MillerKnoll and MLT, found that hybrid work has become the dominant model among employees around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to affect the workforce. The report revealed that the percentage of workers in hybrid arrangements has increased to 58%, up from 46% in May 2021, as the share of workers who say their teams work exclusively either from home or in-office has declined.
SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: A side-by-side analysis w/checklist (TechRepublic Premium)
The survey polled 10,000 knowledge workers from the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K., with 68% of the respondents saying that hybrid work is now the preferred model over in-office or fully remote work. Despite the possibility of new COVID variants being found, employees surveyed said they are feeling more positive about their working experience now that some companies have shifted their focus to the hybrid model.
“It’s past time to move beyond the ‘remote versus office’ debate. The future of work isn’t either-or; it’s both,” said Brian Elliott, executive leader of the Future Forum. “A hybrid model can foster a more flexible and inclusive workplace, but only if leaders are intentional about establishing guardrails to ensure all employees have equal access to opportunity and can participate on a level playing field.”
Work flexibility is the new standard
As was detailed in Deloitte’s findings on the subject, a large part of the workforce expects to now have both flexible working environments and hours in order to get work completed in a timely manner. Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed said they want location flexibility, while 95% said schedule flexibility is important in their current roles and moving forward. Of the executives polled, 41% responded that a major goal moving forward is to refocus on how to create equal working conditions and the ability to share work between remote and in-office employees.
Employees also said that if their current employers are resistant to this change in how work is done, many will begin looking for similar roles elsewhere that do offer the flexibility that is desired by the overwhelming majority of the workforce. Seventy-two percent of those dissatisfied with their current level of flexibility at work said that they are likely to look for a job in the next year. With this being a sentiment of many employees, it is now up to executives to adjust expectations to allow their workers to take their tasks anywhere and complete them as their schedule permits.
SEE: Top keyboard shortcuts you need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Per the survey, flexibility in work has also become a point of emphasis among historically underrepresented groups in knowledge work, including people of color, women and working parents. In the U.S., 86% of Hispanic/Latinx knowledge workers and 81% of Asian American and African American knowledge workers would prefer a hybrid or remote work arrangement, compared with 75% of white knowledge workers. Globally, 52% of women want to have work location flexibility at least three days a week, compared with 46% of men; and 50% of working mothers want to work remotely most or all of the time, compared with 43% of working fathers.
Inequities in hybrid work
One potential drawback in moving to this model for many employees and the executives they work for is remote or hybrid workers falling behind due to proximity bias. This bias may cause favoritism toward colleagues who work together in-office, and a major concern among executives is the potential for inequities to develop between remote and in-office employees. To help combat this, company leaders need to establish principles and guardrails according to Future Forum, to outline the ways hybrid work will be integrated with employees sharing a physical space.
The principles will serve to ground the core company values—like inclusivity or equality for example—while guardrails will assist in guiding behaviors in order to maintain an even working environment across all employees. Leaders in these companies can also work toward insulating the goals of inclusivity or equality by building trust through transparent communication or measuring outcomes instead of inputs. By attempting to ingrain these principles while making sure that all workers feel like they are on the same page, companies can help successfully navigate the transition to hybrid work while letting employees maintain the level of productivity experienced when the entire workforce was fully remote.