The nature of hybrid and remote working models has continued to evolve as organizations adapt to workplace requirements. In 2021, we explored how combining technology and culture can help drive the hybrid workplace. In 2022, we mapped the journey of employee experience from physical to digital as the number of remote workers has increased. And most recently, we kicked off 2023 by considering how employers can improve employee wellbeing and work-life balance by offering flex-time or hybrid/remote working.
But now, as we approach the final months of the year, it’s time to reflect on hybrid and remote working and consider the question: where are we now?
This year saw an escalation in the battle over returning to the office, with many tech companies compelling workers to come back on-site. A whopping 90% of companies have indicated they plan to implement return-to-office policies by the end of 2023, with nearly 30% saying their organization will threaten to fire employees who fail to comply with in-office requirements. Goldman Sachs wants employees in the office five days a week, and Google is factoring physical attendance into performance reviews. Even Zoom, the company that powered the remote work revolution, has said it is now enforcing a hybrid approach that requires employees to be onsite.
However, there’s evidence to show that, for some organizations, the employer’s push to end remote working and return to the office is stalling as leaders consider the benefits of flexibility when it comes to recruitment and productivity. Some firms have even backtracked, with new research showing 80% of bosses say they regret their initial return-to-office decisions. “Many organizations that attempted to force a return to the office have had to retract or change their plans because of employee pushback,” says Kathy Kacher, President of Career/Life Alliance Services.
For employees, flexibility is still a priority
The disconnect between what employers want vs. what employees want has become clear. While, as detailed above, employers are pushing for a return-to-office, employees comparatively still want flexibility at work. In fact, workers feel so strongly about this that, according to a new study, 76% will actively seek a new job if their company eliminates flexible working policies. Furthermore, the same research reveals that almost half (42%) of employees wouldn’t even apply for a role that didn’t meet their preferred work policy.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the ‘preferred work policy’ for workers is remote or hybrid, and this isn’t likely to change with the new generation of employees entering the workforce. A study by NinjaOne shows that:
- 55% of Gen Z students graduating this year prefer remote or hybrid work.
- Of that, 23% prefer remote work, while 32% prefer hybrid work.
- 38% reported that one of the biggest barriers to finding their dream job is the necessity of working from the office five days a week
Even workers at companies that have implemented return-to-office policies are doing so on their own terms, citing that the “9 to 5 straitjacket is gone”. Employees are seeking a better work/life balance, coming in later after a workout or leaving early to pick up their children before logging back in, for example. “There is a gigantic dance going on. Companies want people back in the office, and employees are saying, ‘Okay, let me find the right balance,’” said Patricia Mokhtarian, a professor who studies remote work at Georgia Institute of Technology.
A new approach to remote and hybrid work policies is necessary
So, this is where we are now, but where do we go from here? It’s clear that a new approach to remote and hybrid working policies is necessary. With workers keen to retain flexibility, companies must adapt and provide seamless, unified, simplified experiences. Great hybrid work experiences require reimagined office environments and better-integrated networking, cloud services, security, and data.
These new approaches to remote and hybrid work policies could include a myriad of things. For example, virtual desktops can help to improve hybrid work by boosting employee experiences wherever they may be working, enabling greater deployment flexibility, maintaining a secure network, improving efficiency, and much more. Some even suggest that we need to rethink the definition of “hybrid work” to include AI: “Organizations are made up of a mix of on-site and remote workers, and teams are made up of a mix of human and artificial colleagues.”
One thing is for sure, workplace flexibility isn’t going away, and in fact, by offering it CIOs can reduce IT talent flight risks and improve productivity. As we continue to incorporate hybrid and remote working practices into the workplace, experience is essential. Organizations need to invest in the employee experience for deskless workers, encouraging them to feel empowered and engaged.