Research from Paychex on the Future of Work Shows Employees Want Greater Flexibility

New report from Paychex looks at the factors reshaping virtually every aspect of how, where, and when work takes place

Flexibility is the common denominator in the way employees want to work now and the way they expect to work in the future, according to new research released by Paychex. The report, entitled “The Future of Work is Now: How Shifting Dynamics, Technological Innovation, and Worker Preferences Are Disrupting the Workplace of Today,” evaluates the demographic, technological, and behavioral factors that are changing the workplace of today and setting the course for the Future of Work.

In the past decade, the generational makeup of the workforce underwent a dramatic evolution that will continue to reshape foundational aspects of American work. Since 2009, a new generation has joined the workforce (Generation Z), Millennials took over as the largest generation in the workforce, and Baby Boomers began to exit the workforce as they reached retirement age.

According to workers, as a result of these generational shifts, their employers have made changes such as:

  • Switching to a more casual dress code (24 percent)
  • Offering more flexible scheduling options (20 percent)
  • Upgrading to more flexible/collaborative/open concept workspaces (15 percent)
  • Allowing employees to work remotely (14 percent)

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The mobile-centric preferences of Millennial and Generation Z workers have also influenced the tools their employers use to share information. Five years ago, only 14 percent of employees used both mobile devices and desktop computers to manage HR tasks. Today, that number is up to 43 percent.

“The Future of Work offers tremendous opportunities for employers that emphasize flexibility, mobile technology, and training,” said Martin Mucci, Paychex president and CEO. “This report offers valuable insights on what businesses can do now to both prepare for the continuing evolution of work and attract and retain qualified candidates in today’s tight labor market.”

The report is based on payroll and HR data of a subset of Paychex small business clients with 1-49 employees and survey responses from more than 500 U.S. workers. An overview of the data was shared today in Washington, D.C. at “Workers & the Innovation Age,” a policy briefing event presented by The Hill.

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The report breaks down the impact of an increasingly multi-generational workforce, advancements in technology, the evolving preferences of today’s workers, and highlights the following:

Generational Shifts  

  • Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce (currently at 39.5 percent). Generation X is the next largest generational segment of the workforce (30.5 percent), followed by Baby Boomers (21.6 percent), and then Generation Z (7.1 percent).
  • With four generations currently participating in the workforce, 83 percent of employees say that working cross-generationally has positively impacted their work experience.

Advancements in Technology

  • Today, the number of employees using a desktop computer exclusively to manage HR tasks has dropped to 51 percent (from 74 percent five years ago), and the number of employees using both desktop and mobile solutions has jumped to 43 percent (from 14 percent).
  • Nearly one-third of employees (31 percent) say that an aspect of their job that was once done manually is now done through AI/machine automation. And the trend is expected to continue: 33 percent of Generation Z, 32 percent of Millennials, 29 percent of Generation X, and 20 percent of Baby Boomers think that manual aspects of their current job will be done though AI or machine automation in the next five years.

Evolving Worker Preferences

  • When asked what their ideal work schedule looks like, 73 percent of employees would prefer some form of flexible scheduling (a compressed work week, unique hours based on personal circumstance, or total flexibility as long as job responsibilities are met). However, only 51 percent of employees currently have a flexible schedule option while 49 percent have a set schedule.
  • Employees expressed a similar desire for more choices when asked about where they prefer to work: 31 percent of employees select the more traditional option of working at their companies’ office each day, while 58 percent would prefer to work from home some or all of the time.

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