Data Shows Flexible Working Is Here to Stay

Author: Laci Loew, XpertHR Senior Analyst, HR Strategy and Insights

Hybrid and remote working are everyday conversations among today's HR leaders. The "work anytime, anywhere" model has arrived and is here to stay. This chart illustrates the steep rise in the remote working population after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professional jobs hiring remotely chart

Consider the following:

  • 81% of employees either do not want to go back to a five-day work week in the office or would prefer a hybrid schedule going forward (Harvard, Mar 2021)
  • 80% of US workers say they would turn down a job that did not offer flexible working (FlexJobs, Feb 2020)
  • A 50% increase in remote work could lead to over $11,000.00 in savings annually per employee (Global Workforce Analytics, Mar 2020)

Business and HR Leaders want to step up and are asking questions such as the following:

  • In what ways can companies/leaders create a workplace culture that hybrid and remote workers feel connected to it?
  • How can companies prevent hybrid and remote workers from feeling isolated and left out when in-person workers go to happy hour or in-person team-building events?

The underpinnings of success are represented by three organizational norms (and associated actions) specifically designed to address the needs and expectations of remote and hybrid workers:

Organizational Norms Key Actions Why It Matters to Remote/Hybrid Workers
Trust and transparency modeled by leaders and managers Encourage frequent and informal social interaction time between remote/hybrid workers and their leaders for real, authentic, collegial, and just plain fun conversation. This is the alternative to the in-person hallway chat or elevator ride.
Be committed to creating a level-playing field ensuring that remote/hybrid workers have equal opportunity to participate in small, high-priority work groups. This action represents planful assignment of high-profile, desirable work streams to the most qualified, yet not readily identifiable simply due to lack of physical presence.
Consider eliminating limits on paid-time off and/or requirements on in-office time in favor of measuring outcomes/outputs where remote/hybrid workers deliver their best work. This demonstrates commitment to worker productivity metrics that matter, not the low value "how early someone arrives to work each morning" or "how late her car is in the parking lot" assessment.
A shared sense of community, belonging, and opportunity for all workers Adopt new collaboration tools and technology that proliferate the spread of actionable insights from all workers regardless of their location. This approach ensures airtime is not in favor of those who have physical presence.
Reconsider nice-to-have IT protocols and/or VPN upgrades that could preclude fast and agile collaboration from anywhere among remote/hybrid workers. This models respect for remote workers by foregoing nice-to-have technology policies and access changes that could impede their ability to readily join meetings and make work contributions that matter.
Extend an open invitation to remote/hybrid workers to visit local physical offices at any time for purposes of collaboration and connection with colleagues for any reason or no reason at all. This action promotes unity of virtual workers by bringing them together with in-office workers and vice-versa.
The employee voice in shaping when, where, and how work gets done Invite ideas from remote/hybrid workers about how best to get work done. Acknowledge that creative ideas are also found outside of those who are broadly seen in the physical office.
Ensure the psychological safety of remote/hybrid workers. Offer conscious awareness and purposeful support of those who are not readily seen and nor physically present.
Schedule enterprise-wide virtual gatherings to encourage sharing of innovative ideas often hidden within the virtual/hybrid community of workers. Planful and purposeful gatherings of in-office and virtual workers boosts morale and personal sense of belonging and identify for all and particularly the remote and hybrid workers.

The successful adoption of these key organizational norms and associated actions has measurable business impact:

  • Gartner research shows that organizations with high levels of trust increase their average employee engagement by 76% over those with low levels of trust, and that managers must establish mutual trust to build successful remote teams. As recently shared in LinkedIn, employees who experience a sense of belonging at work show a 56% improvement in job performance.
  • According to research by Forbes, employees who feel their voices are heard are 4.6 times more likely to produce their best work. "As organizations across the globe adapt to the new landscape of work, I'm excited to see the rate of innovation, inclusion, and flexibility accelerate," says Michael Brenzel, Chief Workspace Evangelist at Google.

This work anytime, anywhere trend is here to stay. As more workplaces reopen post-COVID, virtual workers remain in home offices… by choice, not necessity. In response, forward-looking organizations seeking to attract and retain the best talent are adopting work-from-anywhere as a business strategy - a strategy that boosts employee engagement, morale and productivity.

Additional Resources

Flexible Work Policies and Practices 2021: XpertHR Survey Report

Managing Workplace Flexibility

How to Coach Managers Through Leading Remote Teams for the First Time

How to Measure the Success of a Hybrid Working Model