The global pandemic transformed how we work overnight - and because of this, we’ve officially fast-tracked to the future of work.
You’re probably quite familiar with some of the major shifts that have happened in the past 18 months (‘Zoom’ is officially a verb now, so there’s that). However, there is one notable change that sticks out above the rest: employees now expect flexibility in not only where they work, but when.
In fact, nearly 1 in 2 people (48%) said that if they were no longer able to work remotely, they would start looking for another job that offered more flexibility in when they worked, with men saying they would quit nearly 60% more than women. In the U.S., 81% of those that worked from home during the pandemic said they want a hybrid or remote working style once the pandemic is over. This shows there is a clear path forward post-pandemic.
How many people worked - or are still working - from home during the pandemic?
Of those that specifically worked from home during the pandemic, if they were not able to work remotely going forward:
said they would quit their job with an additional 18% still undecided
would quit or look for a new job that offered flexibility in when they work
would expect a pay raise
would stay in their current role, but would be less willing to go the extra mile
What is the modern employee looking for from their employer?
As the workplace has changed, so have employee expectations. Those who worked from home during the pandemic have now experienced the challenges and benefits of remote work firsthand. Because of this, the question becomes: do employees’ new expectations align with what employers are planning to offer post-pandemic? Not exactly.
Take the return to the office. Of the respondents that worked remotely during the pandemic, 60% have returned to the office in some capacity over the past six months. It’s encouraging to see businesses of all sizes open their doors again.
But as companies reopen, it’s important that every employer takes a step back to evaluate how their current workplace policies and practices impact their business and their employees.
39% of employers are requiring employees to be in the office full-time post-pandemic, but only 29% want to be. And 1 in 4 (25%) of total respondents say they would quit their job if they could no longer work remotely after the pandemic. Hybrid work is clearly what employees expect going forward, but don’t dismiss the physical office. Employees also want days in-office to meet with their teams, engage with leadership, brainstorm and more.
Of those that worked from home during the pandemic, 73% have returned to the office at least one day a week, with 25% returning within the last month
Of those that have returned to the office:
Employees’ preferred working arrangement vs. what their employer is requiring them to do:
Overall, how are employees feeling right now?
Today’s remote employees have to balance a number of roles while working from home.
Whether they are a parent, caretaker or pet owner, many employees have been challenged with fulfilling the needs of their employer with the needs of their families or households. Maybe that’s why it’s called work-life balance.
One trend that surged during the pandemic for employees: moving. Many have moved - both temporarily or permanently - to better accommodate their needs and the needs of their families. Of those that worked from home during the pandemic, more than a quarter (27%) relocated during that time, with younger employees (ages 21-40) temporarily relocating 14X more than older ones (ages 40+).
Of those that worked from home during the pandemic, the most popular places to work are:
Of those that worked from home during the pandemic, 1 in 2 (51%) adopted a pet
Of those that worked from home during the pandemic, 63% needed to provide care for children or a dependent during the pandemic
Many moved during the pandemic (some more than once). Of those that moved:
Ages 26-40 accounted for approximately 2/3 of the move from urban to suburban (68%) and urban to rural (63%), and more than half (57%) of the suburban to rural moves
Boomers represented the largest portion of the group that moved from rural to urban (40%)
Takeaway: Younger generations moved to suburbia when older generations moved to urban areas
Boomers represented the largest age group to move to another state (35%)
Millennials represented over half (50%) of the moves to another country (followed by Gen X at 33%)
For many, transitioning to remote work started with setting up a dedicated workspace, learning new virtual collaboration tools, and adapting to new ways of engaging with colleagues and clients virtually. But that was all temporary, right? Not so much.
Today, these same employees that have become remote work pros are evaluating what their return to the office looks like - with many asking if they will return at all.
The modern workforce has a new set of needs and expectations - with only 1% of employees that worked from home during the pandemic saying they are less productive, proving that remote and hybrid work has to continue to be part of the equation. That said, managers are still skeptical. For those that manage remote workers and teams, 36% are concerned about employee productivity and 36% are worried about reduced focus.
It’s clear that employees are seeing and feeling the benefits of remote work, but there are also drawbacks - long hours, increased stress, and of course, burnout. Managers and employees must work together to overcome these challenges.
For those that worked from home during the pandemic, being able to work from home - at least some of the time - post-pandemic said it would make them:
For those that worked from home during the pandemic,
Of those that worked from home during the pandemic:
For those that worked from home during the pandemic,
How much do employees really work at home?
When it comes to gender:
Employees are working significantly more,
For decades, employers have recognized that every employee operates differently. Some companies choose to administer personality-like tests in the workplace - like Myers-Briggs for example - to learn more about how their employees work collectively and independently.
The pandemic threw some employers and employees for a loop, with many employees having to rethink their work routines and habits basically overnight. And some of these adjustments haven’t been easy. In fact, they’ve exposed some inequities between coworkers.
One challenge - employees are now split across locations making it harder for everyone to be part of the conversation and collaborate. In fact, 70% said it’s often or always difficult to contribute or be part of a conversation when on video calls, 72% said they can’t tell who’s speaking, 63% can’t see people’s faces, and 62% can’t see the whiteboard. On the other hand, 71% said it’s easier to present on a video call than in person.
Of the 73% of employees that have returned to the office at least one day a week:
Of the 25% that quit or are looking to change jobs during the pandemic, Gen Z accounted for:
Men are 41% more likely than women to work 10+ additional hours/week
...with women reporting working the same number of hours as they did in the office, 56% more than men
If they could no longer work remotely:
Men say they would stay at their job, but be less happy 34% more than women
Men say they would expect a pay increase 34% more than women
For those that moved, the reasons varied:
Men were 6X more likely to relocate to start their own business than women
Women were nearly 2X more likely to relocate for a better lifestyle
Women were more likely to relocate to be closer to family and friends
For those who worked from home and are now back in the office:
Men said they enjoyed the commute to the office 55% more than women
Men said they enjoyed being back in the office 24% more than women
Of the 69% that worked from home during the pandemic, they learned a few things. Top challenges when on a video call while others are in-person:
Those that worked from home during the pandemic say that when participating in meetings remotely compared to in-person:
The rise of hybrid work forced many organizations to operate differently, and because of this, the physical office space has taken on a new identity. An office used to be a place where employees would gather daily to do individual work, group work or socialize. Every space had its own characteristics - at one point, relaxation rooms were all the rage.
Don’t get us wrong, there is absolutely a need for physical offices. In fact, of those employees that have returned to a physical office, 78% say that they feel more included when at the office. It’s just, the reason people will come to the office and how they will use it has changed so the physical space must change too.
Collaboration has always been at the center of work, but with hybrid workforces, the tools and spaces people collaborate in need to be elevated. To date, only 38% of employers have upgraded their video technology to improve hybrid collaboration. There’s room for improvement.
It’s clear that seamless connectivity and collaboration is key for those both in and out of the office, which is why employers need to step up and rewire their offices, so that employees can do their best work, wherever they are located.
Since the start of the pandemic, companies have:
As an authority on the future of work, we are always looking towards, well - the future. So, if hybrid work is here to stay, what’s next? Many companies are looking beyond today to build more progressive workplace policies that will help employees thrive.
Employee engagement has always been at the forefront of the minds of companies of all sizes and all industries for a simple reason: engaged employees produce better work. And with 1 in 2 (49%) managers who oversee remote workers concerned about employee engagement, it seems to be the topic on everyone’s mind.
So what happens if employees aren’t engaged? Well, they look to leave. 1 in 4 changed jobs or have been actively seeking a new opportunity during the pandemic. Women changed jobs 43% more than men - yes, you read that correctly, 43%.
To avoid employees leaving, but in hopes of saving their bottom line, some companies announced salary adjustments for those working from home. That also didn’t go over well. 81% of employees said they should be compensated the same whether they work in-office or remotely.
Of those that changed jobs during the pandemic or who are actively seeking a new opportunity, they are looking for:
Employees are stressed:
Top future working trends:
The pandemic has proven that anything can happen to disrupt our personal lives and businesses without notice. The good news? We learned a few things in the past two years, and now we can all prepare. We can all set ourselves up for future success.
We’ve had a forced try because of the pandemic, but now is the time to be proactive and strategic with our business decisions and priorities. Implement the right strategies, tools, products, processes and expectations to navigate any future disruptions. Your employees will thank you for it.
Successful companies are the ones thinking about long-term strategy rather than “let’s just survive this crisis”. The reality is, most businesses were forced remote, and are now hybrid. We all need to work together to create a new way of working that is productive for businesses and employees alike.
Thanks for taking the time to read our report. We hope you found it insightful and useful.
Owl Labs in collaboration with Global Workplace Analytics (GWA) surveyed 2,050 full-time workers in the United States between the ages 21 and 65 at companies with 10 or more employees and a 50/50 gender split. This survey data was collected in September of 2021.
Owl Labs is a collaborative tech company revolutionizing how the world communicates, through its inclusive and immersive video experiences. Built for modern businesses, Owl Labs is dedicated to empowering hybrid and remote organizations with its award-winning technology and robust product suite. The company’s flagship product, the Meeting Owl Pro, features a wifi-enabled, 360-degree camera, microphone, and speaker with Owl Labs’ proprietary AI technology, that automatically focuses on the speaker using audio and visual cues. In 2020, the Meeting Owl Pro was honored as one of TIME’s 100 Best Innovations. Owl Labs continues to champion the hybrid work conversation with its annual State of Remote Work reports. To learn more about Owl Labs and to join the work and learn from anywhere movement, visit www.owllabs.com.
Global Workplace Analytics is a research-based consulting firm that has been helping employers launch and optimize distributed workplace strategies for nearly two decades. The firm’s proprietary tools include a database of over 6,000 research papers, case studies, and other documents related to where and how people work and a Hybrid/Remote Work Savings Calculator© that a report to Congress described as “comprehensive and based on solid research.” Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, is a recognized thought leader on the future of work and trusted source of insights for news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and many others. In June of 2020, She was one of only three witnesses invited to testify before a U.S. Senate committee on the post-pandemic potential for remote work in government.
Want to share this report with a colleague or reference on your own site? Download the full report here, complete with all graphs and charts in a PDF format. All cited content should reference and link to Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work 2021.