The future world of work: insights and trends to help chart your course

by Steve Teasdale | 29,Feb,2024 | Discovery, Employee Benefits, Q1 2024

Not too long ago, most people were forced to work remotely from home. Even in 2022, a vast majority of organisations worldwide had introduced a remote working policy or were considering implementing one as a long term strategy.

 Fast forward to 2023.

 The need for remote work has dropped significantly but employees want to continue working from home or at least retain some flexible work arrangements. The pushback was inevitable. This leaves employers in the precarious position of having to make some tough decisions. In this article Steve Teasdale, Chief People Experience Officer for Discovery Group, highlights interesting trends and insights from Discovery’s own data, as well as other research that will help employers chart the course for future work arrangements.

Productivity perceptions do not always align

A recent study by Stanford suggests that fully remote work is associated with about 10% lower productivity than fully in person work. The reasons for this include challenges with communicating remotely, barriers to mentoring as well as issues with self-motivation.

However, the problem is that there is a divergence between employees’ and managers’ perceptions about working remotely. The study showed that employees believe that working from home increases productivity by 7.4% while managers believe it reduces productivity by 3.5%.

“Although these results are based on perceptions, they do point out that there is a disconnect between how employees and employers perceive productivity. As a result, certain employees may feel they are being productive when working remotely but from a manager’s context, this may not be the case,” said Teasdale.

Some employees prefer in-person arrangements

Various studies have shown that while the majority of employees now favour working from home, the transition to remote working was initially challenging for many. As a result, there are employees who prefer to work in the office. The most common reasons for this include the ability to interact with their colleagues and build new working relationships. These employees also prefer to ask for help, and receive it face-to-face. Other common benefits include access to better technology and WIFI in the office environment and having a clear cut boundary between work life and home life.

Teasdale explained, “We collect employee experience data through feedback from our employee base. Our data revealed employees generally agree that in-person working arrangements allow for more learning and collaboration in the hybrid model compared to fully remote working arrangements.”

Evidence points to more engaged hybrid employees 

Teasdale says the data shows that employees working in a hybrid model are typically more engaged than employees working fully at home and employees who are at the office full time. “Our employee experience data shows a strong case for leveraging the benefits of in-office collaboration with the flexibility of working from home for responsibilities that require a more focused approach. Our data also revealed that in certain roles where the output is objectively measurable, workers in a hybrid model are producing marginally better productivity results.”

 

However, this is not true for every employee. Research from Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) shows that hybrid working arrangements have a significant and disproportionately negative impact on the low performing individuals. It negatively affects both their engagement levels and performance. For average and top performers, the benefits of the hybrid model emerge in both engagement and productivity. “In addition, the type of job matters because certain roles require more in-person time than others. We have developed three hybrid archetypes that are allocated to different types of roles. This structured hybrid model creates opportunities for teams to interact and working groups to schedule and plan more collaborative work or engage in culture building activities,” said Teasdale. 

Flexibility helps attract top talent 

According to a McKinsey study entitled “Why working from home will stick,” flexible working arrangements are still one of the top three motivators for finding a new job. The three top reasons for respondents preferring to work from home included less commuting and less travel costs, saving on petrol and lunch costs. Jobseekers also value having flexibility in terms of when they work. Other reasons included less time wasted on getting ready for work, more individual quiet time, more time with family and fewer meetings. On the other hand, the respondents’ four top benefits of working in-person included socialising with co-workers, having more face-to-face collaboration, clear boundaries between work and personal time and getting more face time with their manager. 

By developing a structured hybrid model centred around individual performance, specific roles and responsibilities within the company and taking personal preferences into account, your employees can reap the rewards of both worlds: remote and in-office working arrangements. “It may be a cumbersome exercise to undertake and implement, however, if productivity, innovation and engagement are important to your business, and you want to attract and retain the best in intellectual capital, it is a worthwhile endeavour,” concluded Teasdale.

Steve Teasdale
Chief People Experience Officer at Discovery Group | + posts