5 ways
5 ways

This article is the fifth in a series. Here are links to the first four:

You can also view the infographic here.

The pandemic forced millions around the world to change the way they work. As a result, an emphasis on job flexibility is one of the biggest shifts in the labor market today. Remote and hybrid schedules, flexible hours and varied work arrangements are now more important to the global workforce. Our recent Workmonitor survey indicates that even as health restrictions are lifted, a full return to the pre-2020 workplace seems unlikely.

Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents believe flexibility of work location is important, and an even higher majority (83%) want work hours that complement their lives.

when they work

One reason for the "Great Resignation" is that many employees didn’t want to return to the office full-time. Some continued to bear the burden of caring for family members such as children and elderly parents. Others found a flexible schedule helped their mental health. According to our survey, this sentiment remains. 

An overwhelming majority of respondents – 83 percent overall – want flexible working hours. Notably, age didn’t play a significant role in this number: 80 percent of Millennials and 79 percent of 55-67-year-olds share this desire.

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graph with copy

The reasons employees give for wanting more flexibility include spending more time with family, such as dependent children, and mental and physical health. 

The good news is a majority of respondents (60%) say their current employer already allows flexible hours. However, exploring more about what those hours look like in a given day can be helpful for organizations looking to align policy with employee expectations. 

For example, while 42 percent of employees prefer a traditional 9-5, 5-day workweek, 32 percent would like to work a 4-day work schedule. Older employees and women tend to prefer this option to help balance family obligations. This shows that a shorter work week is gaining momentum. 

What’s more, job intensity, or the number of hours worked, is something only about half of respondents can control. Ensuring employees don’t take on too much can help organizations avoid high turnover from career burnout.

where they work

During the pandemic, many organizations allowed employees to work from home. Today, though most quarantine restrictions are lifted, a significant number of employees want the option to continue working remotely.

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What’s more, for most companies, this policy proved successful, further shifting employee expectations around remote work. It should be noted that remote work during lockdowns didn’t always mean working from home. Over the past two years, portions of the workforce, particularly younger generations, relocated to be closer to family or to escape crowded conditions for more open space.  

According to our survey, Millennials and Gen Z feel the strongest about having a choice of where they work, with three-quarters responding in favor. However, a clear majority (60%) of the age oldest group feels the same.

However, even though companies performed well during periods of quarantine, many believe it’s essential their workforces are in the office, at least part-time. Others have started to require full-time attendance,

but resistance among employees is building. Today, just under half of respondents (47%) have a choice of where they work.

Certainly, some factors play a role in whether or not someone can work from home, namely education level and profession.  A majority of the most educated have control over where they work while just 37% of the least educated do.

Reported having more flexibility around where they work over the past 12 months:

35% of white collar professionals 

23% of blue collar workers 

20% of grey collar workers

optimizing workplace flexibility

It’s clear that in today’s labor market, flexibility around both remote work and work schedules matters to the global workforce.

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graph with copy

Many employees now know they can be productive from home and thus don’t see a compelling reason for long commutes and fixed work hours. Still others crave time at the office. This makes hybrid schedules increasingly popular, both because these arrangements satisfy the need for in-person interactions and provide an opportunity to escape the home office. At the same time, they don’t require the daily grind that comes with full-time in-person attendance. 

Regardless of current health restrictions, organizations will do best to retain some job flexibility for their workforce. Three tips can help employers optimize their workplace policies to meet employee expectations around when and where they work:

use the data

Workforce data can help determine if flexible hours and remote work help or hurt productivity and innovation. Organizations that use control groups and metrics to measure non-traditional work will be in a better position to adjust policies as needed.

stay aligned

Companies that utilize flexible schedules and hybrid workdays to align with team missions will prove most successful at offering choices. This includes scheduling in-office meetings to boost collaboration and encouraging employees to use remote days for performing tasks with less distraction.

be flexible

Employers who regularly assess current policies to ensure they evolve with both company growth and changing health requirements will come across as competent and trustworthy.

Flexibility around both work hours and work location are important to today’s workforce. Employers who adopt policies to align with employee expectations in these areas will be better equipped to succeed both now and into the future.