Employee hybrid working, sitting at his desk with headphones on, looking at documents with a laptop next to him.
Image: © fizkes/Stock.adobe.com

Survey: Hybrid working preferred by employees but leaders have doubts

25 Jan 2022

A Future Forum survey suggests hybrid working is preferred by employees and many who are unhappy with their job flexibility plan to leave.

Hybrid working has become the dominant workplace model with most employees preferring this form of arrangement, but leaders have concerns that flexible working can lead to bias and inequity.

That’s according to a new report by Future Forum, which surveyed more than 10,000 knowledge workers in the US, Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the UK.

The survey showed an increase in the number of employees in a hybrid work model, but also a greater desire for flexibility among workers. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed who are not satisfied with the current flexibility of their role said they are likely to look for a new job this year.

Future Forum is a consortium launched by Slack to provide research and events focused on the digital-first workplace.

It latest Pulse survey indicated that 58pc of respondents are in a hybrid work model, up from 46pc in May 2021. More than two-thirds of those surveyed said they prefer the hybrid work model, suggesting a need for leaders to embrace flexibility while ensuring an equitable experience their workforce.

This is a trend that has been seen in Ireland as well. While the return to offices can begin from this week, an Ibec survey last year found that 81pc of respondents expected some form of hybrid working arrangement after the pandemic, and more than half of Irish working adults recently surveyed by Indeed said they would only apply for flexible jobs or roles that would allow them to work from home.

In the Future Forum survey, 78pc of respondents said they want location flexibility while 95pc want schedule flexibility – an increase of two percentage points in both cases compared to the last quarterly Pulse survey. Meanwhile, 72pc of workers who said they are dissatisfied with their current workplace flexibility may look for a new job in the next year.

“It’s past time to move beyond the ‘remote versus office’ debate. The future of work isn’t either/or, it’s both,” Future Forum executive leader Brian Elliott said.

“A hybrid model can foster a more flexible and inclusive workplace, but only if leaders are intentional about establishing guardrails to ensure all employees have equal access to opportunity and can participate on a level playing field.”

Fears of inequity

One of the greatest concerns noted among leaders in the survey was a risk of proximity bias in a hybrid arrangement, or favouritism towards colleagues who work together in a physical office, which could create inequities between staff. This was cited by 41pc of executives as their main concern, up from 33pc last quarter.

Just over 70pc of executives surveyed said they currently work from the office three or more days a week, compared with 63pc of non-executive employees.

The survey also suggested there is a divide between what leaders and employees are looking for going forward. Of those currently working remotely, 75pc of executives said they want to work at least three days a week in the office, compared to 37pc of non-executives.

Concerns from leaders have been raised before. In November 2021, a global PwC survey suggested that while organisations were performing well during the pandemic, leaders were concerned about hybrid working. This was due to issues such as building trust, the need for new skills and unmanageable workloads.

But others are looking at hybrid work as a chance to shake up work practices.

“This is an opportunity for organisations to re-evaluate, refresh or maybe even start over with some of their management processes, from performance evaluation to diversity and inclusion,” founder of Ellavate Solutions Ella F Washington said.

“No one wants to hear that, but it’s not effective for us to shift over old models to this new way of working. A blank slate can be a real opportunity.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran
By Leigh Mc Gowran

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic since November 2021. He has previously worked as an environmental and breaking news journalist, and a local radio presenter. When he’s not writing articles and stressing about the climate emergency, he enjoys judging the latest film releases and perfecting his renowned cooking skills. He also has a love for video games, coffee and cats.

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