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Are Office Workers Happy with Hybrid Work Schedules?

Some studies indicate hybrid work can be a challenge, as well as being a convenience.

Over the past two years, flexibility in work location has become an expectation rather than a perk. Many employers have embraced the hybrid work model in an effort to pacify employees who want to work remotely, satisfy employees who want to come into the office and accommodate those who want the best of both worlds.

Pre-pandemic—in February 2020—about 1.25 percent of all professional jobs offered hybrid work opportunities, according to Ladders, an online job search platform. By February 2021, it was about 1.5 percent. Today, more than 5.0 percent of all professional jobs are based on a hybrid work schedule. That represents more than a 350 percent increase in just two years.

“Hybrid work is moving at hyper speed,” says Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella. “We’ve seen more than 100 years of growth condensed into just two. It’s a revolution in the career space and our lives will never be the same.”

When you combine the rapid acceleration of hybrid work opportunities with the remote work growth trend, the numbers are staggering. Nearly 20 percent of all professional jobs are now remote, which means a full quarter of all North American workplaces no longer require workers to be in an office full time.

The 2022 EY Work Reimagined Survey, which gathered opinions and insights from 17,000 employees and 1,575 employers across 22 countries and 26 industries, found that 80 percent of employees want to work at least two days per week remotely.

“Employees want a choice, and that’s why I very much believe that hybrid work is here to stay,” says Cynthia Kantor, chief client value and growth officer for JLL’s Work Dynamics business, which manages real estate for some of the largest public and private organizations around the world. “It’s a matter of creating the right balance for people. Then the next phase is creating commute-worthy spaces that people want to go to.”

But though hybrid and remote work have clear advantages, they also present challenges, both for employees and employers, Kantor notes. “It’s become clear that prolonged work from home has had unintended consequences,” she says. “JLL research suggests that people are working longer hours—there is no separation of the workday from personal life—and the continued separation from colleagues led to loneliness and depression.”

Managers distrust employees they can’t “see”

Even though 2021 was the most profitable year for U.S. corporations since World War II, many employers still question whether traditional office workers can be productive anywhere else. Indeed, remote work still carries a stigma in some circles—that people who work away from the office aren’t logging in as many hours or accomplishing as much as their in-office counterparts.

Research shows that managers who cannot “see” their direct reports often have trust issues. Only 22 percent of American workers think their managers definitely trust them to be productive and hardworking while working remotely, while 60 percent of bosses admit managing differently in-person vs. in remote environments, according to a January 2022 report from GoodHire entitled Horrible Bosses: Are American Workers Quitting Their Jobs Or Quitting Their Managers?

Moreover, employers are increasingly worry that hybrid work allows employees to work multiple jobs simultaneously. Working in an office full-time would make it much more difficult, if not impossible, to hold down two gigs.

Almost two thirds (63 percent) of people working from home (either full-time or on a hybrid schedule) say their employers are monitoring timekeeping and attendance more closely than ever before. In contrast, just 45 percent of staff working in the office feel they’re under the same scrutiny, according to the People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View report from ADP Research Institute, which surveyed more than 32,000 workers, including those in the gig economy, from 17 countries.

Whether lost productivity is real or imagined, once those doubts take root, managers “start to develop an unreasonable expectation that those team members be available at all times, ultimately disrupting their work-home balance and causing more job stress,” according to GoodHire. The company found that only 46 percent of American workers said their managers respect personal time away from work after business hours.

Worsening mental health causes work to suffer

Sixty-seven percent of workers say they experience stress at work at least once a week, up from 62 percent pre-pandemic, according to ADP. Roughly 15 percent feel stressed every day.

More than half of employees believe that poor mental health is causing their work to suffer. Even worse, people working from home are more likely to feel this way compared to their colleagues in the office (55 percent vs. 36 percent).

The most common cause of stress is having increased responsibility because of the pandemic. Other key sources of stress include the length of the working day, problems with technology and concerns over job security.

ADP’s study found that workers who worked from home provide employers with an extra 8.7 hours of “free time” on average per week, over and above their expected paid hours, in contrast to the 6.5 hours averaged by those in the office.

“There’s a risk that having the flexibility to work from home could end up meaning that workers are more prone to log on earlier, stay later, take fewer breaks, make themselves available outside normal working hours and effectively be ‘always on’,” according to ADP’s study.

Divergent opinions on company culture

Across the globe, employers report that remote work, and now hybrid work, has made fostering and retaining work culture harder than ever. This is particularly problematic given the impact that company culture has on talent acquisition and retention.

“There are lots of root causes associated with The Great Resignation—one of them certainly is feeling less connected to your company,” Kantor says. “What employees like about going back to the office is the ability to connect with other people, to be a team again, to innovate together, to solve problems together, to support each other, to lead and to be led.”

Employer and employee sentiment diverges significantly on remote work and its impact on company culture. EY found that 61 percent of employees agree that their company culture has improved since the beginning of the pandemic, up from 48 percent in 2021. In contrast, just 57 percent of employers say their culture has improved since the start of the pandemic, down from 77 percent last year.

“Perceptions of workforce culture, productivity, advancement potential and mobility show significant differences between employers and employees and could further fuel an already hot race for talent,” according to EY Work Reimagined Survey authors Liz Fealy and Roselyn Feinsod.

Slower career advancement

Because there is a perceived relationship between productivity and visibility—though no such relationship has ever been established—hybrid work could impact career advancement for a large segment of employees. “In a post-pandemic world, we may well see unexplained gaps between those who work remotely and those who get on-site face time with the boss,” according to a Harvard Business Review article, “5 Practices to Make Your Hybrid Workplace Inclusive.”

EY’s Work Reimagined Survey found a “noticeable perception gap” between employers and employees. Nearly two-thirds of employers believe that new ways of working will cause some segments of the workforce to lose competitive advantage. Meanwhile, just 56 percent of employees think so.

Likewise, ADP’s People at Work 2022 study found that 56 percent of North American organizations in believe that if employees aren’t in the office, they can’t build the relationships they need to progress their career.

However, almost seven in 10 say they are being paid fairly for their skillset and their role and responsibilities vs. less than half of their peers in the workplace. Additionally, employees who work remotely or on a hybrid schedule are engaging in more conversations with employers about career progression or skills and training requirements.

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