Flexible working has overtaken salary as the top benefit for U.S.-based employees, with 65% ranking flexibility as more important than compensation, according to a new report from Jabra that analyzes employee sentiments about hybrid work. The finding is included in the Jabra Hybrid Ways of Working: 2021 Global Report, which surveyed 5,000 knowledge workers in five countries worldwide, including the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan.
In the U.S., nearly three-quarters of respondents (70%) believe that in the future, having an office space will be considered an employee benefit as opposed to a mandatory way of working. The U.S. workforce also sees the office as a social amenity (65%) and place to collaborate (63%), with independent working happening better off-site. This shift in attitude towards flexible working and office space suggests that employers need to rethink their benefits packages and ensure that they are appropriate for post-pandemic working life.
A False Sense Of Confidence
The dominant challenges U.S. workers face at home are team connectivity (39%), motivation (31%), and equipment (28%). Yet companies that did a poor job transitioning staff to remote working during the pandemic and employee concerns about career development might be the real drivers of employee hesitation around hybrid environments. Globally, employees are more likely to request more days working in an office – three days or more a week – if their company did not do a good job transitioning to remote work during the pandemic, with 17% wanting to be in the office full-time, compared to 14% for those who had a good experience with the remote work transition.
A majority of U.S. employees (83%) have concerns about hybrid working, primarily due to poor communication practices and unequal playing field, with only 34% believing their organization is very prepared to move to a hybrid working model in the next six months. More than half (56%) also admitted that they would prefer to work from home but are concerned their career would suffer long-term.
Globally, there is also a clear divide between the C-suite and other employees regarding preparedness for hybrid working. Employees were 11% more likely than the C-Suite to say that their organizations were not prepared for the hybrid shift. Only 53% of employees thought that their organization was prepared for hybrid working, compared to 74% of C-suite leaders.
The data shows that business leaders need to move away from formal policies that lack the human element to create a successful hybrid working model. Instead, they should focus on creating high-trust environments that set clear principles and guidelines while giving autonomy to employees.
For example, most employees worldwide want managers to allow team members to set their own schedule (65%) instead of holding standard 9 a.m.to 5 p.m. working hours (35%). A similar percentage would prefer that management allows team members to come into the office when they need to, and work from home when they need to (61%), over having predetermined ‘in office’ and ‘at home’ days each week for the team (39%).
Technology Critical To War On Talent
Moving beyond a hybrid working model, where employees have the choice between working from home or in an office, 81% of U.S.-based employees want to be able to work from anywhere in the future. This surpasses the global number of 75%, showing U.S. workers desire even more flexibility than their global counterparts. As a result, the right technology is more important than fancy offices in prime locations when attracting and retaining talent. More than half of employees want personal technology to take with them wherever they wish to work, while almost three in four would prefer companies to select and provide that technology to make the hybrid experience equal.
Over eight in 10 (86%) U.S.-based employees agree that technology can help all employees have equal access to opportunities at work, and they’d “rather work for a company that invests in technology to better connect the workforce in a hybrid working future” (83%). Collaboration technology needs to adapt to allow people to turn any space into a workspace – previous technology designed for the odd day of ‘remote working’ is no longer enough.
“The world of work is going through a significant change, and we’re at a pivotal moment” said Holger Reisinger, SVP at Jabra. “While companies were initially thrust into remote working with little-to-no time to prepare, the pandemic will have a permanent impact on working structures. As companies look to evolve their hybrid working strategies, the research shows that by continuing to invest in the right technology and giving employees autonomy over the working day, organizations can deliver a better working experience for employees. The companies that get it right will be the ones who don’t just listen to what employees want, but also understand why they want it.”
Additional findings specific to the U.S. market, include:
- When considering a return to the office, employees foresee the most significant challenges to be time spent commuting (34%), feeling like their physical health is at risk (25%), and the hassle of too much health compliance (e.g. need to wear a mask, sanitize, etc.).
- In their ideal future, 49% of workers would prefer a hybrid option, while 27% would prefer full-time working from home, and 17% want to return to the office full-time.
- For workers preferring a hybrid environment, the most popular number of days at home was three.
- Employees’ biggest fears about a hybrid work future are a lack of clear expectations around when and why to go into the office (29%), a lack of consistency of hybrid working arrangements across teams (28%), and physical health risks (26%).
- A resounding 91% of employees were clear that companies must make all employees feel equally included and valued, no matter where they choose to work.
- Over 65% of workers feel their company needs guidance on what a hybrid working model looks like.
- Employees’ sense of connection to and trust in their team has remained the same or increased while working from home.