The data now proves it: the work-from-anywhere/work-from-home model works, and has passed its most crucial test ever, bringing organizations through the Covid crisis and now a key productivity strategy for the workplace of the 2020s. In a recent report out of Accenture, 83% of 9,326 workers surveyed say they prefer a hybrid model — in which they can work remotely at least 25% of the time.
Tellingly, organizations that enable a resilient workforce to be more productive and healthier anywhere are also reaping financial benefits, the study shows. A majority of high-revenue-growth companies, 63%, have already enabled productivity anywhere workforce models, where employees have the option of working remotely or on-site. While the vast majority (69%) of negative or no-growth companies are still focused on where people are going to physically work, favoring all on-site or remote rather than enabling hybrid.
Full-time work from anywhere can be a good thing, but is not optimal for those who are in the earlier stages of their career. Younger people need to be out in the world, forging bonds, gaining mentors, and learning how things work — not sitting alone in front of a screen all day. This is validated by the Accenture survey, which finds a hybrid model that works for all generations may be a challenge: three in four Gen Zers (74%) want more opportunities to collaborate with colleagues face-to-face, a higher percentage than Gen Xers (66%) and Baby Boomers (68%).
Those executives leading their organizations through the work-from-home mandates report that organizational support is key. “The pandemic has fundamentally changed how businesses operate and emphasized the importance of workplace flexibility,” says Edward Wagoner, digital CIO of JLL Technologies. “Through our own evolving workplace processes, we realize the success of short and long-term working strategies hinges on employee safety and comfort, data-driven workplace insights, and adaptability to fluid circumstances like government mandates and requirements.”
The events of the past year did finally put one misconception to rest — that enabling employees to work remotely means loss in productivity. If anything, the past year, showed the opposite to be true. The Accenture survey finds that 40% of individuals feel they can be productive and healthy anywhere — either fully remote or onsite or a combination of the two — as the hybrid workplace emerges.
“The number one thing many HR leaders, myself included, discovered over the past year is that employees are far more adaptable than we anticipated,” says Donna Venable, executive vice president of human resources for Ricoh North America. “Our biggest concern for remote work pre-pandemic was a loss in productivity. However, despite all odds, and competing priorities – from personal health crises, caring for family and dealing with initial technology challenges of remote work – productivity did not waver.”
“This means that we will not go back to a world where employees are ‘allowed’ to work from home, but rather, they are encouraged to be flexible,” says Venable. At the same time, she adds, “I don’t see companies abandoning office space. While there may be some cost savings from a real estate perspective by re-imagining how we use our office space, a far more valuable opportunity is in maintaining a healthy and positive employee culture.”
Hybrid working models “will be critical in the coming months and years ahead as organizations adopt operational flexibility with remote work and evolving employee preferences,” Wagoner says. “No longer will the office serve as the only place where work gets done; the pandemic proved that work can often happen from anywhere. Instead, in today’s world, the office is where people come together to collaborate, innovate, create, and build culture, with face-to-face interactions being a valuable part of the equation.”
The following new ways of thinking — forged through the Covid crisis —may help guide the way to emerging flexible workplace of the 2020s:
As Covid recedes, “we will emerge with an entirely new perspective on virtual work,” Venable continues. “Employees will not be balancing virtual school with work, and the many other challenges that we are juggling today, and productivity will likely rise as employees can better balance work and life. They can be home when they need to be, and still have the opportunity to meet in person when needed.”