During the pandemic, we witnessed how businesses that moved early to remote work peaked their performance and productivity despite logistical challenges. Yet, as soon as the COVID-19 situation normalized, CEOs began strategizing their business plans aggressively. Some even voraciously demanded return to work and limited remote working or flexible working options to their employees. All the major facelift that organizations did to streamline work from home and hybrid working seems to be closely losing its shine and thunder. Higher employee turnover, talent war, the Great Resignation, non-competitive salary hikes, and lack of opportunity to get promotions in time are all adding to the value chain of remote workplace culture. With social media savvy CEOs trying hard to dissuade others from promoting the neo-normal cultures linked to WFH and remote working options, new data reveals most CEOs are actually happy about extending remote working or hybrid working to their employees.
Expert Market surveyed CEOs, founders and decision makers from 125 European and North American companies in May 2022. The interview-based study focused on the hybrid/remote operations since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The questions revolved around benefits of the WFH and remote working, challenges and pitfalls, tools used to manage remote workplace, and future of doing business in challenging times.
Here are the key findings:
- 92% saw positive benefits of flexible working options – with only 16% reported negative impacts
- 94% stated that they will continue working in a hybrid/remote way
- Slack was the most popular program for workplace communication – 52% stated so
- Only one of the companies has returned to the office completely
Expert Market conducted a similar report with 100 business owners in May 2020 around remote working. 90% of companies then saw positive WFH benefits – the recent May 2022 report shows an increase to 92%. Some of the key benefits and downsides they stated were:
- Due to the success of these setups, 94% of the companies stated that they will continue working in a hybrid/remote way in the future.
- Only 7% of the hybrid companies aim to eventually return to the office full time in the next couple of years. The remaining 93% will continue in a hybrid way. We asked them how many days working from the office – the most popular options stated were ‘At employee discretion’ (38%) and 2 days in the office per week (26%).
- Almost three out of four (74%) of the fully remote companies we spoke to stated that they will stay remote. 22% will move to a hybrid way of working, and 4% aim to return to the office in the next year.
- An emerging trend stated by some remote companies is to use co-working spaces – such as WeWork – for any employees who’d like office time with fellow colleagues:
‘We don’t plan on returning to the office full-time in the future, but we’ll offer flexible workspace options to our employees. Giving WeWork access to all team members for a more flexible workspace that provides for the needs of employees who enjoy working in an office environment.’ Monica Chan, Co-Founder of DigiWorks.
In the latest findings, only 16% stated that there were negative impacts of hybrid/remote working including – Isolation having an impact on employee mental health (6%), tech/communication issues (2%), issues with employees overworking (2%), and missed office culture/relationships (2%). This is a huge difference from the 2020 report, when 71% of business owners said they’d witnessed negative impacts, such as a reduction in productivity, difficulty maintaining the work/life balance, and difficulty in assessing accountability.
Expert Market also asked the 125 companies which programs they’ve relied on the most for hybrid and remote working. Slack was the most widely used work chat program with 52% of the companies using it.
For video chat platforms, Zoom was most popular with 47% of the companies using it for communicating with colleagues and clients. Here’s the breakdown of the most used communication channels:
Some of the CEOs found that flexible working changed their whole attitude around how to operate a business:
“Throughout my career, I was a firm believer that you build successful teams by working in-person day-to-day.
The pandemic opened my eyes to the possibility of building great teams that thrive in a completely remote and/or hybrid setting. With my current startup, we are completely remote and the benefit of this is being able to recruit and retain top talent across the world. We do not have plans for a physical office building at this time.
Every employee has a unique life, meaning their family situations are different, their living situations are different, and their hobbies are different. An understanding and appreciation for these differences are key to having a hybrid or fully remote workplace and one that inspires and empowers its team. When a team feels supported and respected, they will deliver great results.’ Jason Brown, Founder and CEO of Family Central
Expert Market editor Chloe Mayo commented on the findings: “It’s hardly surprising that businesses are keen to keep their flexible working practices considering the improvements in employee productivity and happiness, and a better work-life balance. It seems that the workplace changes brought on by the pandemic have helped businesses and employers better understand how to get the most out of their employees; essentially, by giving employees more control over where and how they work best.”
Top HR Technology Insights:
As long as the work gets done, and without disruptions, employees could continue to work remotely– this is a general view of most CEOs around the world.
Much before the COVID-19 arrived, a very large percentage of employees in certain industries continued to work from home (in addition to regular office hours). COVID’s disruptive nature on workplace culture didn’t have much impact on their outlook toward work. In fact, people worked more hours in WFH mode than what they did in the office setting during the pre-COVID era. So, should business leaders continue to have the same expectations from their employees when they return to workplace with reduced opportunities to shift to remote or 100% WFH?
It’s true that some managers fall into the trap of equating workplace culture with managerial control. Studies have shown employees working from home are 13% more productive than their peers in office setting, business leaders should sit down with HR team to retain top talent from leaving their organization. Working from home and working from office, both have their benefits. For instance, the remote work or WFH secures employees from falling sick at workplace due to traveling to office, or meeting with people outside of their social circle. On the other hand, people in remote work routine often end up procrastinating and delaying their deliverables due to distractions and disturbances at home. Also, there is the question of mental health that every employer must account for when calling people back to workplace.
However, top talent prefer aggregating at a place and discuss current and future opportunities, which is only possible when they all converge at the same time and place, meeting physically and discussing things in person. Now, it’s up to the CEOs and CHROs to decide, whether they want their employees to meet daily or once every week.