A survey of the Future Forum shows: Employees are more satisfied when they work from their home office. Three important trends are emerging.
If the Corona crisis has made one thing clear, it is that companies have used the office as a safe haven for too long to keep a particular way of working alive. The office dictates that people gather for work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., decisions are made at the boardroom table, and corporate culture must take place within the walls of the headquarters. The sudden shift to remote work forces us to question this habitual construct. After all, it has been shown that many companies can function well without the infrastructure of a physical office.
To better understand this new working world, Slack founded the Future Forum. The Future Forum is a consortium that aims to help companies succeed in a world dominated by digitalization. We believe that the current crisis provides an opportunity to rethink work culture and standards and to use digital tools to unleash the potential of teams. We provide insights based on research findings and organize events that provide a space for the exchange of ideas between business and academic leaders. At the start of the Future Forum, we launched the Remote Employee Experience Index, which will be published quarterly in future. The Index is based on a survey of more than 9,000 employees from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Japan and Australia, conducted between June 30 and August 11, 2020.
The index shows that employees are generally more satisfied when they are mobile. On a scale of -100 to +100, respondents are happier in the following areas: work/life balance (+25.7), satisfaction with work organization (+20.1), coping with work-related stress and anxiety (+17.3) and productivity (+10.7). The only element of work where people are less positive is their sense of belonging at work (-5.0). It is therefore not surprising that only 12 percent of employees want to return to the office five days a week. More than two thirds (72 percent) prefer hybrid work, i.e. a combination of office work and remote work.
A closer look at the results shows the benefits that different groups of employees see in mobile working. The three most important trends are:
Gain in flexibility
Employees who can work according to a flexible schedule perform better in each element of the index than those who continue to work “nine-to-five”. Satisfaction is almost twice as high in productivity (+13.1 vs. +7.1) and significantly better in the sense of belonging (-0.2 vs. -5.8). In addition, employees who have to attend weekly status meetings feel less like they belong (-2.7) than those who receive status updates asynchronously via digital channels (+5.8).
To enable new forms of flexible, asynchronous communication, companies must give their employees access to modern tools. For example, employees working in companies that are early adopters of new communication technologies have much higher values for the feeling of belonging: +4.7 compared to -8.5 for respondents in companies that are slow to adopt such technologies.
Breakthrough for Diversity
One of the most encouraging findings is that historically underrepresented workers in the United States have higher overall index scores than their Caucasians counterparts: Afro Americans (+10.1), Asians (+16.6), Hispanics (+10.5), Caucasians (+8.9). This difference is also evident in the feeling of belonging: Afro Americans (+8.4), Asians (+7.6), Hispanics (+5.2), Caucasians (-1.3).
These data will require further investigation. Have Caucasian employees in predominantly Caucasian workplaces always felt a stronger sense of community? Do members of minorities feel this way because they are closer to their family and community? The standards for the digital workplace have yet to be written. This gives us the opportunity to start over, to throw off old ballast and to make the new working world more inclusive.
Loss of social connection
The most problematic element of mobile working is the lack of a sense of belonging (-5.0). This feeling is particularly pronounced among managers, who have a lower overall index score (+10.5) than their employees (+15.2) and a dramatically lower sense of belonging (-7.0 compared to -0.6).
The digital world of work requires a new approach to building and maintaining personal relationships. In the remote work world, the role of the manager has shifted from gatekeeper to coach and social link. Organizations must now devote time and resources to providing managers with new tools that enable them to coach their teams and stay connected to them.
The next steps in the new world of work
There is no doubt that the pandemic has devastating consequences. But it also gives companies the chance to break free from the shackles of the physical office and create a new digital working world. It offers the chance to challenge old patterns and build teams that are truly representative of the society we live in today. And it can be a moment to build new strengths that allow us to be connected and support each other even when we are not in the same place.