We can’t go back to the past – but we can find direction going forward even if the future seems uncertain. Our follow-up survey on the new world of work sheds light on the road ahead.
On Aug. 4, 2020, eventual Pulitzer Prize-winning COVID-19 journalist Ed Yong wrote in The Atlantic: “Normal led to this.”
Mr. Yong wrote a lot more, but those four words succinctly describe how the social patchwork we had built came apart so easily in early 2020.
We didn’t just experience a societal earthquake two years ago – we saw all changed utterly, to borrow from a Yeats poem. And we had to adapt quickly to survive.
Employers didn’t escape without struggle, either. The working world had to navigate as well. To better understand the impacts of the pandemic on the workplace, we surveyed hundreds of businesses in June 2020. The result was the New World of Work survey report published in August 2020 with numerous insights on what the work world looked like at that point and what it would look like going forward.
And now, we at Workable conducted the same survey again in June and July 2022 – with a few updated questions. We now understand what anticipated developments from 2020 turned out to be true, and what were way off mark. And what threads from that patchwork remained intact from before, and what new threads are being sewn.
This new report has two parts: first, what we learned from this new survey, and second, how the new survey results compare with those from two years ago. Enjoy the read, and reap whatever takeaways you gain from it.
Major takeaways include the following:
The oscillatory negotiation between return-to-office and full remote work may have settled on a new trend: hybrid. Is this a new stopgap measure or is it the way forward?
The rise of compensation, benefits and opportunities as top value props shows that jobseekers have leverage in what they can get out of a job beyond “getting” the job.
The majority of businesses are moving on to the “next normal” in terms of working environments and business processes – and there’s no going back to the way things were.
The long-term challenges of remote work are surfacing in the form of tech stack considerations, asynchronous issues and lingering anxieties both for businesses and their workers.
We hope you find our survey results to be useful and interesting to you both professionally and personally. Any thoughts or questions, please feel free to share them with us via Twitter, LinkedIn, or by direct email.
Lead author: Keith MacKenzie
Data analysis: Dimosthenis Giannigiotis
Design: Athanasia Lykoudi, Maria Gregoriou
— Businesses are more flexible
— With change comes change
— DX is the bridge
— The great enablement
— Insecurity a factor in hiring
— Already working but hardly producing?
— Business processes are being tripped up
— The business response
— The long-term response
— The trend of distributed teams
— Remote employee engagement
— Changes due to remote shift
— How did hiring change?
— Biggest hiring challenges
— Remote hiring challenges
— DIY on the rise
— A surge in creativity
— Growing thirst for knowledge
— Adaptable and resilient? Meh
— Total rewards are totally rewarding
— Show me the money
— Upward trajectory a necessity
— No need for security now
— No going back to ‘before times’
— Remote not nearly as paradigmatic
— The benefit of benefits
— The rise of async
Even without the original New World of Work survey two years ago, our new survey brings compelling insights to the table. Let’s look at the main takeaways from the responses of more than 400 employers to our 32-question study.
The shift to remote work in 2020 was swift and staggering. Our original New World of Work survey found that two thirds of businesses (62.6%) went fully remote, and one third went partially remote (32.3%). Out of the many violent pendulum swings that happened at the start of COVID-19, the change in working location may be the most dramatic.
But now, as pendulums are wont to do, we see organizations swinging back to the other direction – workers are now being urged to return to in-office work. We’ve seen this in aggressive commentary from the likes of Tesla CEO Elon Musk (“They can pretend to work somewhere else”) and British business magnate Lord Alan Sugar (“... most who work from home watch more TV than work. There are a few exceptions but the majority are lazy gits.”).
With such emphasis on the push to and from remote, we’re seeing a new standard coming to the surface: the hybrid work environment. And our data shows it, too.
“We are a fully in-office company and I find it hard to attract applicants because people want remote work or hybrid.”
One notable standout is that 82.5% of businesses have some form of location flexibility, be it fully remote, partially distributed, or a hybrid working environment.
of businesses are now flexible in their working arrangements – whether that’s fully remote, partially distributed, or hybrid.
One in five (21.3%) said they moved to a remote working environment but have now adapted to a hybrid model of work. And 22.5% say some (not all) positions in their business will stay remote permanently – another indication of hybrid
Only a small portion of respondents – 7.1% in all – say they either plan to or already have moved their entire operations back to the office. Less than one in 25 (3.8%) say they never went remote or hybrid in the first place.
Flexible work is the leading permanent strategic change for businesses, with 54.5% citing distributed teams / remote work and 41.9% citing staggered / flexible work schedules as their fundamental shifts in the new world of work.
When 32.9% say they’re essentially now in a hybrid operation (even if 4.5% say they’ll ultimately go back to full in-office), that suggests hybrid isn’t so much all the rage as it may now be becoming the new normal.
The introduction of hybrid work setups and remote working arrangements means new developments in the way businesses operate.
For instance, a commonly cited benefit of remote / hybrid work capabilities is the expansion of the talent market – and we found that to be true in our new survey. More than half (53.3%) of respondents say that they’re now able to expand job postings to other locations.
say their talent market has expanded thanks to remote / hybrid work.
Another consequence of remote work is the shutdown of physical offices – a significant expense for many businesses – with 46.4% saying they did exactly that.
Businesses are moving to a different plane of reality in terms of work, in which one’s actual physical location isn’t as important as it used to be.
When businesses move to this new reality, work processes are also bound to change. And one significant adaptation is the introduction or increase of digital capabilities – with 28.2% citing that as a change triggered by the shift to hybrid / remote work.
Gartner’s Senior Director Analyst, Sandy Shen, had this to say:
“The value of digital channels, products and operations is immediately obvious to companies everywhere right now…this is a wake-up call for organizations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience. Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”
And Kate Smaje at McKinsey Digital notes: “COVID-19 has only made digital more relevant as companies … have undergone their own massive, overnight experiment in agile, and remote ways of working.”
In that spirit, let’s take a deeper look at what our survey respondents say about DX in the workplace.
Many companies updated both their business (54.5%) and customer-facing operations (56.9%) to a more digitally friendly format during the pandemic.
Moreover, more than half of all respondents consider the digitization of their business (52.8%) and customer-facing (51.9%) operations to be permanently established in their company.
Meanwhile, when it comes to employee performance, existing technology enabled three in five businesses (58.8%) to move their workforce to a remote-first environment. And two thirds (67.5%) say their colleagues can go remote because there was no viable need for them to be physically present at the workplace.
It’s as if a perfect storm took place. The tech and capabilities were already there; it just took a pandemic to push forward into this new world of work. And the logical next step became further and deeper digitization of business operations and working processes.
Now, let’s look at the types of technology that businesses are using in digital transformation.
Communications technology – or more specifically, tech to support work collaborations – is by and far the top focal point for respondents to ensure employee engagement, with 75.8% of respondents choosing that as a key to success. Virtual team meetings (46.7%) also ranks high on the scale.
say communications technology is a key element in their business operations.
Virtual coffee dates and / or happy hours (15.2%) registers as the least-popular focal point to ensure employee engagement.
Time-tracking and / or employee monitoring technology isn’t popular either, with just 22.5% of respondents using that to ensure engagement.
In short, it isn’t so much about connecting your employees socially or personally, or making sure your employees are actually working on the clock. It’s more about minimizing disruption to overall workflow by ensuring that employees are well-informed (as seen in the popularity of regular all-hands) and are working together seamlessly. Businesses are also ensuring that the lines of communication are open and free-flowing regardless of the environment they’re working in.
A common theme throughout the work world – and society in general – is the impact of the pandemic on mental health, and ultimately the rise of mental health as a talked-about topic in the workplace.
Grief expert David Kessler – best known for his collaborative work with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross on the book Grief and Grieving – said in 2020: “We’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”
We covered mental health extensively in our last survey, and shared numerous insights in the resulting Mental Health in the Workplace survey report. So this insight comes as no surprise. And we learned in this new survey that there’s a continued anxiety that impacts both employers and employees at work.
As it happens, it does have an impact on hiring, with 44.5% of respondents saying that uncertainty among candidates about physical safety at work has been a challenge throughout the pandemic, and 38.9% saying it’s still a challenge today.
Overall disengagement is a reality for many businesses, with three out of five respondents (58.3%) saying that employee disengagement or lack of morale are major challenges in the post-COVID work world.
There’s also a considerable level of anxiety and uncertainty for decision makers in a business. A full half of respondents (50.7%) say a major challenge of filling positions is not being able to identify existing gaps or anticipate upcoming ones. Nearly half (45.3%) say it’s still a problem right now.
There are several conclusions we can draw from this: either employers aren’t doing a great job of reassuring candidates and employees of the safety of their workplace, the fluctuation of guidelines and recommendations regarding COVID may be affecting the confidence of workers, or the mounting friction between executives and employees on a return-to-office strategy may be adding stressors to employees’ lives. Also, of course, there’s the consistent undercurrent of economic uncertainty through it all.
“We are a fully in-office company and I find it hard to attract applicants because people want remote work or hybrid.”
Of course, hindsight is always 2020 – even when looking back, it’s still sometimes fuzzy. It’s clearer now with this new survey, which gives us the opportunity to compare the responses to an almost identical survey we conducted in July 2020.
Let’s take a look to see what’s changed from 2020 to now and what’s staying the same.
At the onset of the pandemic, we didn’t know for how long or how far the virus and its impact would reach, so many businesses introduced stopgap measures. As time dragged on, many introduced more permanent solutions and changes.
One question we asked two years ago is what actions businesses took in response to the pandemic. We asked that same question in our new survey to see if those actions look any different now.
Businesses today are more likely to have moved to partial remote operations (59.2%), much higher than the 32.3% who did so two years ago. The percentage of those moving to full remote operations decreased from 62.6% in 2020 to 52.4% now.
more businesses are working in a partial remote environment now compared with in 2020.
What also stands out – also related to the remote-work phenomenon – is the huge jump in the percentage of respondents who saw their business introducing reduced capacity at their working location. That’s more than doubled to 42.4% today from 18% in 2020.
Those who laid off or furloughed employees are on the decrease – just 10.2% of businesses resorted to this action in response to COVID-19 in 2022, compared with more than twice that (21.9%) two years ago.
Businesses are now more likely to be partially remote, operating in smaller workspaces, and aren’t letting go of their employees to the same degree as before. This all points to the rise of the hybrid workplace as a norm.
What permanent moves did businesses have in their agendas in 2020 – and what did they permanently establish as of now? Let’s look.
Two years ago, three out of 10 businesses (29.8%) said they’d digitize their customer-facing operations – and now, more than half (51.9%) have permanently established customer-facing digital transformation. The same rings true for digitization of business operations, now permanently in place for 52.8% of businesses compared with one-third (32.6%) who intended to do so in 2020.
More than two out of five (44.1%) in 2020 said they’d reduce or eliminate their physical office. Today’s percentage is less than half that (21.3%). This may seem to contrast to the insight above in regards to the incredible shrinking workplace, but it’s not; it just tells us that businesses are doing it, especially those operating remote-first – but they don’t see it as a permanent fix.
A resounding 59.2% of businesses said they’d reduce or eliminate non-essential travel in 2020, but only 31% say that’s a permanent solution today.
Only a small fraction – 6.2% – said they would do nothing in terms of changes in 2020. Today, a similar amount – 8.5% – say they have no permanent changes in place for their business.
of businesses did something – whether small or large – in response to COVID-19. Only 8.5% did nothing.
In short, the COVID-19 stress test on businesses was so all-encompassing that very few escaped with zero impact. Some of the measures businesses have taken are clearly stop-gap – such as travel in the short term and physical office reimagining in the middle term – but there are some ultimately permanent changes, especially in the evolution of the business tech stack.
With the shift to remote being a fundamental change in the workplace in 2020, it’s worth another deep dive in this area today.
The initial shift to fully remote operations was very much an adjustment for business survival in response to requirements for physical distancing in 2020 during the first wave of the COVID-19 virus. But what does that look like today?
In 2020, the majority of businesses were working more than three-quarters remotely (57.9%), but now, only one in five businesses (19.9%) have 75% or more of their employees working remotely.
In 2020, 33.7% of businesses said three quarters or more of their workers could work fully remotely without disruption. Now, in 2022, the percentage of businesses saying so is just half that amount (17.5%).
Nearly a full three-quarters (73.2%) said employee engagement and morale would be a major struggle in a remote work world, but as it happens, businesses don’t see this as much of a challenge now (56.6%). However, team building and morale (54.7%) and team collaboration / logistics (41.1%) were noted as anticipated challenges in 2020 – but after experience, both have risen as challenges in 2022 (65.4% and 62.3% respectively).
Check out those latter two insights: there’s dwindling optimism that remote work could really go as well as originally anticipated for overall business processes. While businesses and employees become more accustomed to working in distributed teams, engagement is not as pertinent an issue as it was two years ago.
But at the same time, the experience of the last two and a half years have made it clearer to employers that remote work may not be as feasible in the long term as it was initially seen to be. And more so, the specific challenges of remote work are now rising to the surface.
Nevertheless, many companies are staying with the remote-work arrangement. What are those companies doing to overcome the challenges listed above – especially in terms of remote engagement and productivity?
Incorporation of communications technology is the number-one jump from 2020 to 2022 for businesses looking to improve their engagement of remote employees, with 75.8% saying they’re doing so now compared with just 52.6% in 2020.
Interestingly, just 33.7% of businesses in 2020 focused on regular all-hands addresses from top management as a tool to ensure remote employee engagement. That number’s since risen to 52.6%. The percentage of businesses introducing more team meetings to ensure sync (virtually) has gone the other direction – with 46.7% picking that as a focal point compared with 54.5% two years ago.
Another shift that occurred since 2020 is the focus on results as a performance metric, with 33.2% of businesses focusing on that today compared with 26.4% in 2020.
Nevertheless, many companies are also turning to time-tracking and / or employee monitoring. This year, 22.5% of businesses use this as an option, compared with 14.6% in 2020.
The biggest change in the other direction is that of virtual coffee dates and / or happy hours to ensure remote employee engagement. Two years ago, more than a quarter of businesses (28.4%) picked this option – but that’s shrunk to just 15.2% of businesses today.
Again, the tumultuous landscape that businesses are navigating from 2020 onwards may have required quick decisions, corrections and redirections at a more frenetic pace than employees (or employers) are accustomed to. This requires clearer leadership and more frequent communications – and less micromanagement (for some, anyway). Meanwhile, social interaction is easier now with the opening up of society, of course – so that’s no longer a major concern.
Let’s stay with the remote conversation for a little longer – we’re now interested in understanding what is being considered by businesses who are moving or have already moved their operations to a remote environment, and how that looks different now compared with 2020.
Employers are now enjoying larger talent markets as a result of hybrid and remote teams, with 53.3% expanding their job postings to other locations now compared with 30.1% in 2020.
Nearly three times the percentage of businesses are now considering closing their physical workplace – 46.4% now versus 16.3% two years prior. Considering this was asked of businesses who are remote or will do so, this insight is very much moot.
Facebook made headlines in mid-2020 when they announced they would pay their workers based on where they lived. Turns out that move was prescient, and the start of a trend. In 2020, just 15.7% of businesses considered that as an option, compared with 26.3% now.
Recruitment is ultimately impacted here. Where your candidates are working and how much you’re paying them absolutely changes when you’re operating with a distributed workforce.
Now let’s look at the changes in hiring stemming from the pandemic.
Two years ago, the dominant takeaway was that very few businesses (8.1%) hired more than they initially planned – and 65.2% of businesses either hired less than planned or froze hiring altogether. Now, many more businesses hired more than they originally planned (21.8% now vs. 8.1% then).
One third of businesses (32.3%) hired less than originally planned in the early days of the pandemic. That number grew to two out of five (40.3%).
Another one-third of businesses (32.9%) froze hiring altogether in 2020 – that number’s 14.9% now.
Note that 14.9% of businesses took an objective action in freezing their hiring, versus a combined 62.1% of businesses who saw their hiring processes not go as planned (i.e. it was either more or less than planned). That speaks volumes to the unpredictable hiring landscape in both directions – things did not go nearly as anticipated in hiring and still aren’t going to plan now.
Let’s look at businesses who did continue in the hiring game – and understand what that experience was like for them.
Three out of 10 businesses (29.1%) now cite a lack of candidates as a hiring challenge, compared with one in five (19.9%) in 2020. “Too many candidates” is a problem for just half of businesses today (10.2%) than in 2020 (20.5%).
Reduced in-house capacity to recruit is much more of a challenge to hiring today (27.5%) than it was in 2020 (14.9%).
Uncertainty among candidates about physical safety at the business has doubled from 2020, with 44.5% of businesses stating that as a hurdle compared with 22.2% in 2020.
hiring challenges as a result of reduced in-house capacity to recruit has grown 84.5% between 2020 and 2022.
We know there’s a Great Resignation underway – but we can’t help but draw a link between the lack of candidates and diminished resources for those in the hiring business. Candidates are also still worried about their health and safety. Perhaps additional investment in hiring and greater reassurance about workplace safety can attract more interested applicants – who are ultimately the lifeblood of a business.
Now, let’s look at the challenges facing those employers who do their hiring in a remote environment.
In 2020, sourcing and attracting candidates remotely was a struggle by 25.8% of businesses – much less than engagement, evaluation and onboarding at the time. That’s since grown to 36.7% of businesses today – and it’s the only one of these four challenges that’s increased.
Problems with candidate engagement (41.2% now vs. 51.7% in 2020), candidate evaluation (34.8% vs. 42.4%), and even new hire onboarding (43.8% vs. 49.7%) in a remote work world are all less of a challenge today than in 2020.
Tech buy-in and adoption in hiring teams, listed as a challenge by just 15.4% in 2020, is a challenge for 22.8% today. Tech buy-in / adoption in candidates is also listed as a challenge by 16.8% of respondents now, but that’s veritably unchanged from 16.6% two years prior.
As hiring teams become more seasoned in a remote function, the engagement, evaluation and onboarding of candidates is now easier. This is likely due to the adoption of new digital tools in the hiring process, including one-way video interviews, online assessments, digital signing, text messaging, and other standard features of recruitment that became more digitized from 2020 onwards.
But: as companies jump onto the digital train, there will be some who run into challenges – including for hiring teams. On the other side of the recruitment coin, candidates actively looking for work may be exposed time and time again to the varying digital setups of different companies and consequently, more comfortable working with a range of tech stacks. Tech adoption isn’t always going to be universal.
Most of all: technology is a great optimizer of processes. Remember what we wrote above about additional investment in hiring to address the reduced in-house capacity to recruit? Perhaps hiring tech itself is the solution – and specifically a user-friendly software with a high rate of user buy-in.
One thing that’s changed significantly over the last two years is the kind of skills that boost the net worth of a candidate when they’re trying to land a job. The standard skills and background aren’t wholesale different than pre-pandemic, but due to the changing nature of the working environment (i.e. remote, hybrid, etc.) and shifting values of work (i.e. work-life balance), soft skills have risen in value for employers.
Let’s have a look at what skills employers want now and how that’s changed since 2020.
In 2020, a self-motivated or a self-starter mentality was valued by more than half of businesses (54.2%) when hiring. That number’s grown significantly higher to 69% now – meaning, seven out of 10 businesses really like to see their workers take initiative without needing specific direction or motivation from above.
Another dramatic shift is in the value that employers place on creativity and innovation. In 2020, 27.8% considered that to be a valuable trait when evaluating a candidate – now, it’s nearly twice that (52.8%).
Again, in the same theme of being creative and being a self-starter, there’s growth in the importance of willingness to grow / learn in a role. Employers value this more now (38.2%) than they did in 2020 (30.6%).
Going the opposite way, interestingly, are adaptability and resilience (down to 52.6% from 67.4%) and the ability to operate in ambiguity (22.3%, down from 26.1%).
The overall working world is more unpredictable and perennially changing than it was in pre-pandemic times – and subsequently, businesses need to be more agile to survive and thrive. And now that employers are operating in an agile environment as a rule rather than an exception, they need employees to be more creative and willing to learn in order to stay relevant.
But after two and a half years in this working environment, employers have developed best practices in management, and are identifying what works best in this new world of work. They’re no longer putting the onus on their teams to drive by night without the necessary guidance and leadership – but at the same time, providing just enough information for self-starters to thrive.
Now that we know what values are becoming more important to employers when evaluating candidates, let’s look at it from the other side – what’s becoming more important in the eyes of candidates when looking at job opportunities?
Now that employers are struggling with a relatively depleted candidate pool, the natural move would be to enhance their employer value proposition (EVP).
Perks, benefits, time off, etc., is seen to be becoming far more important now than they were perceived to be in 2020, with 56.9% of employers saying this is now becoming more important in the eyes of candidates compared with 36% two years ago. Those who say it’s relatively unchanged in terms of importance has gone down from 49.9% in 2020 to 25.3% now.
Compensation is also becoming more important for candidates, according to employers in 2022 (56.2%) compared with 2020 (33.3%). And again, the percentage of employers who say the importance of compensation for candidates is relatively unchanged has gone down from 51.9% in 2020 to 29.5% now.
This year’s employers also say that career opportunities are becoming more important for candidates (49.6%) than in 2020 (34.6%). The percentage of employers who say the importance of this is unchanged has dropped from 56.3% in 2020 to 40.2% now.
“Adaptability to a new normal [is important] as the era changes from time to time. Companies play a part to retain employees during crises. Employees have to motivate, innovate and self reflection on themselves during the pandemic situation.”
Job security – at one time quite an important value proposition – is becoming less important for candidates now than it was two years ago. Only half (50.9%) of this year’s employers say it’s becoming more important now, drastically down from four out of five (79.8%) two years ago.
Candidates and jobseekers now have the upper hand now when evaluating job opportunities. They don’t worry about job security as much because they know employers need them more than they need employers. So, they’re more interested in what they can get out of a specific job opportunity – i.e. the compensation, the benefits, the career growth – than they are interested in simply getting a job.
“For me the most difficult part is employee engagement and compensation. It's a big challenge to keep a big company engaged (many people miss the ‘family’ feeling, while other people don't know what it means as they joined remotely). Regarding compensation, many international companies are now offering US salaries in Spain, which makes it difficult to reach for Spanish companies.”
A core theme of our report from two years ago was about the anticipated paradigm shifts in the new world of work resulting from the pandemic and its many ripple effects. We have that in spades.
In 2020, at the inaugural World Economic Forum Pioneers of Change summit, Christine Lagarde was quoted as saying: “If we get the policy mix right, hopefully we will protect the economy in the aggregate, but we will not prevent it from being transformed. We need to focus on that so that those transformations are not scars but transformations for the better,” she said.
She was referring to digital transformation specifically – but she might as well be talking about overall transformation of the world of work.
She was referring to digital transformation specifically – but she might as well be talking about overall transformation of the world of work.
In 2020, just one in 25 respondents (3.9%) said their industry wouldn’t return to normal at all. Now, 22.7% say their industry either hasn’t returned to normal, or moved to a “new” normal. Likewise, only 3% of businesses in 2020 said their business and operations wouldn’t return to normal at all – compared with 19.7% who now say their business and operations still haven’t returned to normal or they’ve moved on to a “new” normal now.
At the risk of sounding redundant, 71.1% said remote work would be one of the main paradigm shifts going into the post-COVID work environment in 2020, compared with 54% who say it ended up being a paradigm shift now.
54% vs. 71.1%:
Just 54% now say remote work is a major paradigm shift coming out of the pandemic, compared with 71.1% in 2020.
Another notable upward change is seen in benefit plans – 39.3% now choose that as a major change compared with 27.5% two years ago. It’s an indicator that employers are recognizing the need for greater employee engagement in the workplace – with benefits being a part of that.
But the biggest shift upwards is the rise of asynchronous work and operations, with a combined 28.4% of respondents citing asynchronous processes as a major paradigm shift compared with just 16.6% two years earlier.
This tells us that the initial shift to remote was a snap reaction to the pandemic, and while predicted to be the biggest change in the workplace, it may have instead been a longer-term stopgap towards a hybrid working world as the ultimate paradigm shift.
Perhaps the development of hybrid is a result of the nuanced changes that came with having employees distributed across different locations – including working with someone who you may never meet or with someone in a wholly different time zone.
But ultimately – yes, the work world has transformed.
“People seem happier with even one or a couple of days working from home. We need to address this going forward – better life balance can result in productivity.”
In the ‘before times’, in-office and on-location work was very much the standard, with some forward-thinking organizations presenting their employees with the opportunity to work offsite where they were able to and where it was possible.
In the turbulent early days of COVID-19, many organizations shifted to a fully remote model – which was labeled then as a bold and new experiment. It was also described as something that was bound to happen sooner or later and merely expedited thanks to the social impact of the virus. The short-term rise in productivity and performance was experienced by many in the remote working environment.
But as the pandemic dragged on, productivity started to suffer. Mental health issues also rose in remote work – and we’ve seen the rise of anxieties in this new survey. We also see that asynchronous work is a mounting issue.
What also became evident are challenges connected with on-location work. When we saw conversations rising about a return to office as the pandemic loosened its grip on society, the pushback from employees was emphatic. Many workers – according to our Great Discontent survey report last year – want to retain their flexibility in work, primarily due to family commitments and personal lives, as well as having more time in the day.
In short: people just don’t want to go back to the way things were, and likewise, industries and businesses – which are irrevocably transformed – don’t see a return to the previous status quo.
In the midst of all this, candidates very much have the upper hand now that talent is at a premium for employers. They’re not afraid to leverage that to their benefit – be that in terms of compensation or working environment.
The ‘agreement’, if we can call it that, that seems to be developing seems to be a third road – the option of hybrid work.
Hybrid work, for all its definitions (i.e. two days in office and three days remote, office space availability for those who want it, etc.), is rising as one of the major new standards in this next world of work. Perhaps it’s the best of both work worlds. Perhaps hybrid is an agreement – whether that’s temporary or a new standard.
“I believe that the hybrid model is here to stay. The challenge will be to establish and develop greater empathy among remote employees.”
This speaks broadly to the old axiom that for every retaliatory adjustment or new solution, fresh challenges and problems are going to reveal themselves. This happened with in-office and on-location – a centuries-long standard – and happened again with the opposite extreme of distributed teams and remote working. Now we have hybrid.
The more things change, the more things will change – that’s been our experience of the last two and a half years. Is hybrid the next world of work, or is it just the next experiment or the next stage in the ongoing negotiation between employer and employee? It’ll be a bit of both.
We received 422 complete responses to our survey, primarily in the 1-500 FTE size range (83.4%), with 26.3% in the IT / Technology / SaaS industry and the rest roughly evenly distributed across other industries. 59.4% are US-based companies, and 22.4% are based in the UK, Ireland, or continental Europe.
The survey was live during the period of June 27 to July 21, 2022. It was distributed via Workable’s newsletters, partner distribution, and social media channels. It included a total of 32 questions.