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What Employees Want: Flexibility, Trust, Technology

It’s not 2020 anymore, but the discussion about the future of the workplace is just as lively as ever. As many employers embrace hybrid and remote work and many others try to go back to the way things were pre-pandemic, there’s a lot of push and pull, trial and error, and even tension within the workplace about how—and where—work should be accomplished. A new study delves into these issues and more.

The sixth-annual State of Remote Work report, a collaborative research effort between Global Workplace Analytics and Owl Labs, was recently released. The 2022 report surveyed more than 2,300 full-time workers across the U.S., and it reveals trends and perspectives on future of work topics such as remote and hybrid work, workplace training, and tech that supports flexible work models. Global Workplace Analytics says most people (86%) say they would be happier (86%) and more productive (62%) if they had the option to work remotely. And so many of them are. This year saw an increase in the number of employees choosing to work remotely. The report says 24% more workers chose remote work in 2022 compared to 2021, and 16% more workers chose hybrid work in 2022 compared to 2021.

Many workers now seem to expect employers to have remote/hybrid work options, and if employers don’t, these workers are prepared to look elsewhere. For instance, the 2022 study suggests 66% of employees would immediately start looking for a job that offered flexibility if their ability to work from home was taken away, and 39% said they would quit right away if this happened.

Why do employees prefer remote work? The State of Remote Work report says 62% of respondents feel more productive when working remotely. The report also suggests remote and hybrid work options benefits employers, saving them $19.11 per worker per day that employee works at home instead of at the office. Even though many workers prefer remote and hybrid work options—and, in fact, 52% say they’d take a pay cut of 5% or more to have that flexibility—there’s more employers can do to make the experience better.

For instance, about half (49%) of respondents say they believe their managers perceive employees who work in the office as harder working and more trustworthy than employees working remotely. A similar percentage (45%) say their level of work-related stress has increased in the past year. The technologies needed to support remote and hybrid work aren’t always up to snuff, either. Just one in three (36%) employers have upgraded their video meeting technologies since the start of the pandemic.

Remote and hybrid work are here to stay. Instead of resisting and driving out their best employees, employers should take a hard look at how they can embrace the trend instead of trying to hold out on it. One way to embrace the trend is to invest in training managers and employees with the skills needed to succeed in a remote and hybrid work environment. Only about half of employers are currently providing training on how to hold effective and inclusive hybrid meetings and, similarly, just half are training managers on how to lead remote and hybrid teams, according to the study.

In the future, leveraging technologies such as AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), and metaverse could play a role in successful remote and hybrid work environments. In the 2022 State of Remote Work study, there was a lot of interest in these workplace technologies. More than half of employees indicated interest in VR (57%), metaverse (55%), AR (54%), and working from a coworking space (53%).

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