Where, when, and how the world works is changing. From “The Great Resignation” to the massive shift to remote and hybrid work, the transition is having a ripple effect. Employees are becoming more assertive about their needs and businesses who are resistant to reformation are getting left behind. Veritably, in Microsoft's New Future of Work Report 2022, evidence suggests we may be entering a new era in the geography of work:
The Hybrid Work Era.
It’s no wonder, considering the many benefits. Not only does having a flexible workforce shield against future disruptions, it also allows for more workforce satisfaction, better productivity, cost savings, and so on.
In this article, we’ll look at the current state of remote work, developing trends, and how it could continue to unfold into 2023 and beyond.
The Evolving Workscape
The 2022 American Opportunity Survey reflects major upheaval in the US workforce. 92 million workers were offered flexible work options, while 80 million actually engaged in flexible work of some kind. That’s nearly a quarter of the US population!20 The Ladders Q1 2022 Remote Work Report found that 24% of all professional jobs in the US and Canada are hiring for permanently remote roles. Concurrently, EY Global discovered that nine in ten employees want flexibility in both where and when they work.
There have been other workforce accommodations cropping up as well. Workers report wanting no meeting days, 4 day work weeks, and work-from-anywhere provisions such as coworking spaces, coffee shops, working abroad, and other flexible arrangements. Over 50% want to have asynchronous-first work options.5
The World Economic Forum believes employers are moving to meet these demands due to productivity and retention concerns. 58% of Americans currently have opportunities to work from home at least 1 day a week.6 Also, there has been a 46% increase in offices planning to go remote, remote-first, or hybrid in the near future. 72% plan for this to be permanent.5But many employers aren’t on board with the altering workscape. As a result, people are reporting desire for flexible work as a top motivator for leaving their current employment.
The Great Resignation Continues
A record number of people, 47.8 million, quit their jobs in 2021 alone.1 That’s an average of nearly 4 million people per month – a trend that has held steady over time. 4.2 million employees quit their jobs in July, 2022, and this rate has remained mostly unchanged month to month.2 That’s like the entire state population of Oregon quitting their jobs each month!3
In fact, a study released this year from PwC reports that one in five are likely to switch to a new employer in the next 12 months. A previous study indicated that 65% of employees surveyed were looking for a new job and 88% of executives were seeing higher turnover rates.4
The reasons people are quitting indicate a shift in workplace mindset and social awareness. There’s also a push from employees for more desirable work environments. Personal well-being, mental health, and a better work/life balance were the top reported reasons for leaving a job in 2022. These reasons were followed closely by COVID concerns, distrust of leadership, and a lack of flexible work options.1 McKinsey & Company found flexible work arrangements are in the top three reasons why workers are seeking new employment. 45% of respondents told Indeed they switched jobs because their employers did not offer flexibility. Finally, in a global survey, 21% of respondents who quit their jobs in 2021 reported lack of flexible working hours or location as the reason.1
According to Workhuman’s January, 2022 Human Workplace Index, 82% of workers are feeling more empowered to hold their leaders accountable for a better workplace. This directly correlates with the 56% who said they would only wait 30-60 days before leaving if their employer didn’t make requested adjustments.
This mass shift in worker priorities is putting business leaders into an unprecedented position. Leaders must consider their decisions regarding worker demands wisely or risk falling behind due to a failing workforce.Funnily enough, many of the top reported concerns such as personal well-being and better work/life balance are also reported to improve when more flexible work options are offered. Competition for top talent demands that employers consider their flexibility options. Additionally, companies should invest in technology, policies, practices, and training to create workplaces that meet emerging needs.
Workplace Awareness is Rising
Issues such as mental health and personal well-being, work/life balance, sustainability, healthcare and workplace safety, economic impact, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, equity, and others are becoming more important to workers:
Workhuman’s January, 2022 Human Workplace Index found that 83% believe companies who offer mental health resources have a competitive advantage. 72% say their company offers some form of mental health support, including telehealth options. That said, the stigma surrounding mental health is still causing disruption. Despite available resources, only 34% of workers feel safe discussing mental health and nearly one in three employees said they would feel judged if they took a mental health day.8
These findings are important. There’s a strong correlation between marginalized and concerned employees and the improvements that remote work provides to them. As a matter of fact, 61% of companies that began to hire for remote work saw notable increases in the diversity of their team as a direct result.10Research from McKinsey & Company supports that employers who want to improve their social impact and workforce retention should consider flexible work options. Among workers that prefer hybrid work and said they were willing to leave if it wasn’t available:
Meanwhile, only 30% of workers say their company is providing support to help them work effectively with people who are different from them.9
It seems that diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies will need to consider remote work options as a viable solution.
Furthermore, employers should consider the cost savings, significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, reduction in traffic accidents, reported improvements in work/life balance and wellbeing, and other positive impacts of remote work. While it isn’t the one answer in and of itself, flexible work options prove to be an effective tool to address social, economic, and environmental issues in the workplace.
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More Business Leaders Are Getting on Board
Many company leaders are already acting on this. Indeed reports that 45% of employers are feeling more concerned about equitable hiring now than before the pandemic. 37% are using diverse interview panels. Another 30% have prioritized inclusive job descriptions.
60% of companies surveyed have committed to improving workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion in some way.8 The same number have workplace flexibility initiatives in mind. Mental health benefits and support initiatives were reported by 52% of companies, and internal pay audits are being considered by another 24%.8
Remote Work Solves Challenges
Employers and employees alike are noticing the benefits of remote work and the new opportunities that come along with this workforce evolution.
97% of remote workers report wanting to work remote or hybrid for the rest of their career, and the same number would recommend remote work to others.5
It’s no surprise when you consider that remote employees could save a near average of $3,000/person and gain back about 14 days/person a year.7 Additional reported benefits include no commute, feeling safer, being able to live and work abroad, having better focus and better accessibility, getting more excited about their job, and having more time with family and friends, among others.
Interestingly, the reported positive benefits far outweigh any reported struggles. According to Buffer, only 1% report having a negative experience with remote working – a stark contrast to the many who report remote work has improved their situation in some way.
But employees aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of remote work. Businesses could save over $500 billion a year total—roughly the GDP of Sweden. That’s about $11,000/remote worker a year saved. Then there are the additional benefits of increased productivity, greater agility, reduced real estate, less absenteeism, and lower turnover costs.7Finally, the benefits of remote work transcend the workplace, resolving far more than modern workforce complaints. For instance, removing the time wasted sitting in traffic could save the environment from greenhouse gases (the equivalent of taking the entire state of New York out of work commute for a year). Also, over 80,000 traffic accident injuries and deaths could be prevented.7
Hybrid Work Bridges Employers and Employees
With all these benefits, hybrid work has become the most preferred option agreed upon between employees and employers and 63% of companies surveyed say they will continue operating on a hybrid model. Hybrid workers reported 59% collectively expect four or less in office workdays per week.8 Of those who say their job could be done remotely, 63% would prefer a hybrid model and believe their employer should offer that.9
WFH Research estimates about 30% of full-time employees are currently in a hybrid work model. Employer models for WFH days average between 2.3 and 2.4 days per week. Workers, however, are expecting more work-from-home time, with 57.6% wanting 3 or more remote days.
Although this gap has continued to shrink, the workforce is still demanding more full-time remote work than their employers are willing to offer. 41% of workers anticipate being onsite five days a week for the foreseeable future.8
Hybrid work is an excellent compromise that employers should consider along with negotiating on required in-office days. A majority of employees are willing to negotiate, and businesses can reap the benefits of both in-office and remote environments.
Flexible Work is not Without Its Problems
While the highest percentage (31%) of people report no concerns about remote work at all, flexible work environments are not without issues. Unplugging at the end of the workday, concerns about career growth, and feeling disconnected from coworkers are the top reported pain-points.5Other reported concerns include:
Regarding meetings, Microsoft's New Future of Work Report 2022 states in the past 2 years there has been a 252% increase in weekly meeting time for the average Teams user. This represents an astronomical conversion in the way people are communicating and interacting at work, and it isn’t necessarily positive. Too many meetings have been shown to cause:
But that isn’t the worst of it. The rise of bossware is perhaps the most detrimental workplace alteration to come from remote policies.
The Emergence of “Bossware”
“Bossware” is a term coined to refer to the employee monitoring software many companies have been implementing in the past few years. Numerous studies have found this practice to be detrimental to the mental health, fair treatment, safety, and privacy of employees; but so far there isn’t much protection in place.
60% of companies with remote workers are using some form of bossware, while another 17% are considering it.11
Digital.com shared the reasons employers cite for using this technology, such as:
But these figures are likely not telling the whole story. Amongst the monitoring activities employers are using against their workers:
As a result, 88% of employers have admitted to terminating workers after implementing monitoring software.11
Reductions of employee privacy have been linked to higher stress levels, reduced organizational commitment, reduced trust in management, increased deviance, reduced short-term productivity, reduced creativity, and other negative outcomes. Additionally, low-wage, hourly workers seem particularly at risk of anxiety about their work, work speedups, and racial profiling due to intrusions of their personal privacy.1
The adverse effects of bossware are leading to rising awareness for worker technology rights. The use of overly invasive or inaccurate software causes unfair situations for workers. In many cases, there is unconsented to collection of data, loss of autonomy, loss of privacy, work intensification, discrimination, suppression of the right to organize, health and safety hazards, wage loss and/or decreases, and other harmful repercussions.12 But only 3 states have protections in place to protect worker monitoring at the time of this article.13
Cybersecurity Has Become More Important
Supporting remote work has become the top security challenge for business leaders, with 41% investing in new security software.15
Cybersecurity Magazine reported that small and medium-sized businesses have been most hard hit. Hastily implemented remote work solutions increased vulnerabilities across the board:
All that vulnerability led to 61% of small businesses experiencing at least one security incident during the previous year. Phishing and spoofing schemes, network scraping, and even deepfakes in video meetings are all rising threats to flexible work security. Having the proper network security and intervention tools in place is key to remote work success.
Another area being overlooked in business security strategies is communication security. Schemes such as robocalls not only disrupt employee productivity, they’re another avenue for cyberattacks that can lead to downtime, lost data, and revenue hits. Presently, 1 in 5 businesses are experiencing downtimes with nearly 2 in 5 instances suffered as a direct result of a cyberattack.18 That’s at an average loss of anywhere between $423-$9,000 per minute, depending on the size of the organization.19
Expanding the scope of cybersecurity systems could be the make or break of a business as the world transitions to a new era of work.
Cybersecurity in 2022
What steps can you start taking right now to prepare and secure your business?
Communications and Collaboration is Expanding
One of the most effective ways to combat the frustrations that accompany remote work is to have the right communication and collaboration systems in place. Especially since 56% of respondents say how they collaborate and communicate has shifted.5
For instance, 82% of leaders surveyed said they implemented new virtual interview processes due to the pandemic. 93% of them intend to continue that practice.10 As for interviewees, 84% of candidates who’ve had a video interview would recommend it as a top recruitment method.17 This is all new territory.
Following suit, two thirds of businesses are making new investments in conferencing software. Over half are increasing their investments in collaboration tools, and new remote desktop tools are being sought out by over half as well.15
Ensuring these new investments are effective is essential.
To illustrate, 69% of workers surveyed are wasting up to 32 days/year navigating between disparate applications. That’s an entire month lost to ineffective communication systems! In correlation, 56% experience disruption while searching for information in these same apps.16 That’s a lot of wasted time and productivity – and ultimately, revenue.
Those employees also reported that having access to a unified communications and collaboration solution would:
But a lot of business leaders are making the mistake of thinking it isn’t their problem. In a recent survey conducted by Vyopta, a substantial 42% of leaders felt it was their employees’ responsibility to have the right technology on-hand and functioning to collaborate remotely.
Those same leaders reported:
All due to technology and communication disruptions.
Clearly, having the proper platforms in place to support a flexible workforce isn’t something business leaders should overlook. Nor should it be left to employees to manage since doing so can have some pretty extreme consequences.
How to Combat Common Remote Work Difficulties
Despite the obstacles, there are many ways employers can capitalize on the benefits of remote work to build a culture of success.
While not an exhaustive list, here are some ideas to try:
Invest in robust unified communications and collaboration infrastructure to support remote work and flexibility. And ditch the bossware. The right supportive technology can help to build interpersonal trust through procedures such as self-initiated check-ins and real-time availability. This is also shown to improve spontaneous engagement.1
Encourage and support the use of third spaces (places to work that are not at the office but are still outside of the home). This can simultaneously combat loneliness and the harmful effects workers report when forced to work in-office. 68% of respondents feel more socially fulfilled when they can work from either a third space or home. 70% have tried working from a third space before.14 Coworking spaces, coffee shops, cafes, libraries, and outdoor places such as parks are all good options.
Initiate coworker hubs on your company intranet or make groups specifically for your workers on well-known platforms. Encourage team building activities within these social hubs such as games, movies, conversation starters, coffee/tea hours, etc.
Offer plenty of pathways for career growth and learning opportunities.
Implement parity across all salaries and be transparent about companywide financials and salaries.
Implement events such as townhalls, happy hours, office parties, lunch hours, field trips, and new hire meet-and-greets. Make attendance mandatory but allow a choice between in-person or remote. Then make concerted efforts to regularly include remote attendees. Also, don’t schedule these too frequently – monthly or quarterly events are plenty.
Consider making organizational adjustments such as restructuring teams to better meet transforming business and worker needs. For instance, temporal brokering is a coordination role that bridges subgroups within company departments and across time zones that may otherwise have little to no overlap. This can increase company unity, collaboration, and productivity, along with many other benefits.
Offer stress management training and therapeutic counseling options.
Integrate micro-intervention tools and prompts into your productivity software to help your employees manage difficult conversations and situations, while reducing stress.
Build processes and systems that support a unified team such as shared vocabulary and work standards; team communication tools and etiquette; and companywide transparency such as pay equity, workload sharing, group rewards, and team competency development.
Require cultural Intelligence training; especially across global teams. In the same line, offer accessibility, diversity, and inclusion training.
Implement better meeting management and more meeting-free days to increase autonomy, lower stress, and improve communication. Microsoft's New Future of Work Report 2022 shows that 4 meeting-free days per week leads to higher satisfaction, better cooperation, more engagement, increased productivity, and less micromanaging.
Improve companywide accessibility for differently abled, disabled, and impaired individuals, including on digital fronts such as remote collaboration tools.
Build community-based mentorship, support, training, skilling, and entrepreneurship programs to recruit, aid, and retain talented marginalized employees.
The Future and the Possibilities of Remote Work
Up and coming workplace technologies and practices are going to support the evolution of a remote workforce. Aside from the transformations we’ve already discussed, in the near future you may be hearing more about:
On a final thought, 91.7% of respondents believe the need for employees with training in both public health and climate change response will grow over the next decade.1 This is likely due, in large part, to the recent pandemic and the massive upheaval it has caused on various fronts.
A New Era of Work is Here
The truth is, predicting the future accurately is near impossible. The best anyone can do is look at current trends, consider the possibilities, and do a better job of planning for the unexpected.
The global pandemic highlighted this fact as it created a major shift not only in the workforce, but in societal and economic norms as well. It also created an opportunity to examine weaknesses in practices, policies, infrastructure, and likewise. Now we can better understand and prepare for the disruptions of the future.
The surge in remote and hybrid work is a direct result of this. And because this new way of working so effectively eliminates major disruptions in the workforce, it’s not going to go away.
It’s time to recognize that this is the new norm. Flexible work environments are overwhelmingly preferred by a large majority of the workforce, produce so many beneficial results, and is now in demand from businesses who see the benefits as well.
We are, undoubtedly, entering a new era of work.
Remote and hybrid work is here to stay and will continue to become more commonplace, or even expected, in the workforce. New technologies will develop around this business structure, making it more available to more people – even in positions that previously seemed impossible. Integrating the work experience into a unified, tech-supported, immersive environment that people can participate in from anywhere will be the goal.
If you’re interested in learning more about current technologies that support work-from-anywhere flexibility, give us a call at (866) 948-2699 or contact us here.
- Teevan, J., Baym, N., Butler, J., Hecht, B., Jaffe, S., Nowak, K., Sellen, A., and Yang, L. (Eds.). Microsoft New Future of Work Report 2022. Microsoft Research Tech Report MSR-TR-2022-3 https://aka.ms/nfw2022
- Economic News Release, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Tuesday, October 4, 2022, US Bureau of Labor Statistics
- An official website of the United States government, United States Census Bureau, QuickFacts, Oregon
- PwC Pulse Survey: Next in Work, August 19, 2021
- Buffer, 2022 State of Remote Work, A report by Buffer in partnership with Nomad List and Remote OK, data collected between Oct. 29, 2021 and Nov. 29, 2021
- McKinsey & Company, Americans Are Embracing Flexible Work—and They Want More Of It, June 23, 2022 | Article | American Opportunity Survey; by André Dua, Kweilin Ellingrud, Phil Kirschner, Adrian Kwok, Ryan Luby, Rob Palter, and Sarah Pemberton
- U.S. Employers Stand to Save Over $500B a Year with a Combination of In-Office/Remote Work Strategies, Kate Lister, Global Workplace Analytics, SAN DIEGO, CA, Jan. 12, 2021 | Copyright © 2021 Global Workplace Analytics
- Workhuman, Sarah Bloznalis, Human Workplace Index – New Year, New Workplace Expectations, Jan. 6, 2022
- PwC, Survey of over 52,000 workers indicates the Great Resignation is set to continue as pressure on pay mounts, May 24, 2022 © 2022 PwC
- Indeed, Liz Lewis, 2021 Hiring Trends Report, Oct. 14, 2021
- 6 in 10 employers require monitoring software for remote workers, Edited by Digital.com Staff, survey conducted Sept. 13, 2021; updated Jan. 31, 2022
- UC Berkeley Labor Center, Data and Algorithms at Work. The Case for Worker Technology Rights Annette Bernhardt, Lisa Kresge, and Reem Suleiman November 2021, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC by 4.0) license
- The New York Times Wirecutter, There’s (Probably) Nothing You Can Do About the New Bossware That’s Spying on You, Thorin Klosowski, June 6, 2022 © 2022 Wirecutter, Inc., A New York Times Company
- The Next Web, Study: Just how many remote workers are actually lonely?, Ben Marks and Rafael Museri, July 28, 2022, 1:09pm, Copyright © 2006—2022, The Next Web B.V. A Financial Times Company
- Exploding Topics, 40+ Fascinating Remote Work Statistics (2022), Josh Howarth, July 11, 2022
- RingCentral, Future-proof your workplace Simplifying workstreams with flexible communications, © 2021 RingCentral, Inc.
- Recright, How candidates react to video interview?, Saara Saalamo, Candidate Survey 2022 results
- Trilio, The Cost of Downtime on Your Bottom Line, August 2022
- RingCentral, How much does an unplanned IT outage cost?, Andy Cheng, Originally published Aug 16, 2021, updated Apr 01, 2022, © 2022 RingCentral, Inc.
- United States Census Bureau, U.S. Population Estimated at 332,403,650 on Jan. 1, 2022, Derick Moore, Dec. 30, 2021