As we gradually emerge from the rumbles of COVID-19, the world of work has been profoundly altered. Within this shifting environment, many supply chain inefficiencies have been revealed or accelerated for employers and senior managers, creating a key moment in time that we have never seen before. Business leaders have been given an unprecedented opportunity to hit reset on pre-pandemic norms and shape the future of work in a way that allows both workforces and businesses to thrive.
Assessing how the pandemic has altered traditional workplace patterns can help organizations come out ahead. To fully embrace the opportunity to transform first requires understanding emerging employee expectations.
New survey findings from the Adecco Group explore how employee attitudes have changed in this short period of time. The data holds key patterns that business leaders should pay attention to in order to position themselves as employers of choice.
Work where you want
Flexibility in work location was on the rise prior to the pandemic, but this trend was propelled forward when people were advised to stay home as much as possible. Based on the findings of this study, this trend might be here to stay.
The survey found that, although employees expect their employers to ask them to spend more than two-thirds of their work time in the office in the future, employees would prefer to spend only half of their time there, with the balance spent working remotely. They appreciate the opportunity to work at home in a quieter environment when they have to handle deep-thought activities, and they enjoy saving commute time. At the same time, they see the value of face-to-face collaboration to brainstorm and handle team projects.
This affinity toward mixed working locations is not only felt across profession levels but also across generations. Half of surveyed Gen Xers and millennials and 47% of baby boomers agree that hybrid location arrangements are the way forward.
Business leaders have warmed up to this idea, with 77% of surveyed C-level leaders and executive managers agreeing that businesses will generally benefit from the increased flexibility regarding work location. Also, 79% believe employees will personally benefit from the increased flexibility.
Shifting the typical 9-to-5 workday
Employees are seeking more flexibility in their working hours, too. About three-quarters of surveyed employees think now is a good time to reassess typical working hours as well and opt for a more flexible schedule.
During the pandemic, 22% of respondents were allowed to completely set their own schedules. Another 54% were given some scheduling flexibility. In many cases, work can be completed outside of the traditional 9-to-5 workday, so a shift is feasible.
In addition, employees are calling for productivity to be measured differently from just hours at a desk. About 70% of respondents said work contracts should be based on results rather than hours. However, this does require a certain level of trust between managers and their direct reports. Taking time to invest in building stronger relationships and communication styles will be pivotal to making this arrangement happen.
New challenges for employers
The study also revealed that 80% of respondents believe their employers are responsible for ensuring a better working world and driving change post-pandemic. And about 75% of employees noted that it is important for managers to exhibit a leadership style focused on collaboration, problem-solving and adaptability, characterized by empathy and a supportive attitude. If they haven’t already, organizations should start cultivating a new breed of leaders that can provide the guidance and support employees need while embracing the changing trends regarding workplaces, work hours and related policies.
The world of work will never be the same as it once was. This is good news — the survey shows that the old normal didn’t work all that well, especially for employees. Many business leaders have proven to be responsive, resilient and resourceful under the unique circumstances of 2020; their work must not stop when operations are able to fully resume. They will have to continue being responsive and adaptive in order to build a workplace that truly supports both employees and business. It’s time to reset and transform.