Flexible work is here to stay – but trust an issue
Remote work, rapidly accelerated by the pandemic, is now essential to business success and worker productivity. However, as parts of the world open up and hybrid work becomes a reality, research shows that companies must invest in establishing flexible work policies and programs, and address a sizeable disconnect in trust between decision makers and employees, according to a Forrester study commissioned by LogMeIn
Remote work is at a crossroads. While necessitated by the pandemic, workers have reaped the benefits of greater flexibility that they are now not willing to go without. The study shows that nearly three-quarters of workers said the pandemic made them want to work more remotely in the future, with 83 percent of employees saying that they are more likely to stay at their company if they are allowed to work flexibly. 60 percent of respondents said they were even willing to accept less pay in a trade for flexibility.
However, many decision makers and leaders are still taking an antiquated look at remote work rather than seeing it as the competitive differentiator it is. While 56 percent of employees say they are more productive when working remotely and 61 percent say they can get more done in an 8-hour workday when remote, only 5 percent of decision makers surveyed believe remote workers are more productive, and 70 percent said employees in the office are more trustworthy.
So, while companies must take this next shift toward hybrid or digital-first work as an opportunity to mature the remote work tools and programs hastily put in place one year ago, the study conducted using two online surveys – one of 582 remote work decision-makers, such as those leading human resource or IT departments, and a second survey of 427 employees – each at global organisations of 10-2,500 employees, shows they may not be. The results show that business leaders must move away from outdated remote work stigmas and embrace the new way employees want to work. Shifting to an “anywhere” work program is not a simple task, but it is critical for business success. In fact, the findings revealed that:
Employee happiness and mental health need to be prioritised:
- 62 percent of employees say they are happier when working remotely
- Mental health support is a particular area of need – only 44 percent of employees thought their organisation was effective at supporting mental health needs when working remotely. However, the data showed that employees at organisations that had implemented a mental health support program were more satisfied with their work, had more energy at their job, and were more likely to remain at their current organisation for a long time
- Employees in the high remote work satisfaction group, compared to their counterparts in the low satisfaction group, were more likely to feel good about their company (89 percent vs 52 percent), feel that their job inspires them (90 percent vs 57 percent), and be satisfied with their work overall (95 percent vs 65 percent)
The correct policies and documentation must be created and communicated:
- Half of the decision-makers surveyed said that their organisations have a formalised flexible work program in place, however less than one percent meet all the specifications of Forrester’s tenets of a flexible work program
- Only 21 percent of employees say they can choose which work style works best for them
- Only 38 percent of employees say their organisation has documentation related to work styles and only 18 percent have read it. Employees who know the criteria are 2X more likely to experience remote work satisfaction
The right technology enables seamless and secure employee collaboration:
- Technology decisions can’t be one-sided or driven primarily by cost-saving. 82 percent of decision makers say the ideal way to make a purchase decision is with equal input from HR and IT, however, only 51 percent of organisations are making technology decisions this way
- 81 percent of decision-makers say they are effective in ensuring personal privacy among remote and in-office workers, yet only 58 percent of employees are satisfied with their employers in this area
- IT decision-makers seem to see this gap as well. While 76 percent believe a strong remote work technology suite would improve compliance, only 58 percent believe their suite is doing so today, showing there is clearly room for improvement
Organisations should focus on what Forrester defines as the four key pillars of remote work: Structure, Culture, Technology and Compliance, in order to successfully implement flexible working and attract and retain productive, happy and diverse talent. The research suggests that embracing anywhere-work and focusing on these pillars can help businesses achieve high remote work maturity and ultimately improve employee engagement and satisfaction, strengthen productivity levels, achieve better customer experience, and reduce costs, which can even lead to increased revenue.