Two‑Thirds of People Globally Prefer ‘Flexible’ Work Options After Covid19: Survey
The pandemic has changed the world of work, making work-from-home the norm instead of an exception. Going forward, a majority of people desire the freedom of flexibility and greater control on working styles, according to a new global survey.
As more and more offices ask employees to resume in-person work, people are seeking more flexible or hybrid work models.
The survey, commissioned by the World Economic Forum, looked at 12,500 people across 29 countries, and noted the unfeasibility of a “pre-pandemic” life. For instance, almost 66% of people said employers should be more flexible with their approach. The support for this idea was the strongest among women, adults under 35, and those with higher levels of education and income.
Although these numbers are not applicable as a general rule, a consensus can be drawn on how work life can be cultivated to respond to a post-pandemic reality going forward.
Interestingly, the idea of a flexible option involves working from home for an average of 2.5 days in a week. From people surveyed in India, the desired hybrid model was to work 3.4 days from home. Notably, almost 30% people said they would consider changing their jobs if they were forced to go back to office. From eliminating the time spent on commute to feeling more productive and creative at home, or even finding a remote working set-up more inclusive for neurodivergent people, the benefits of such a model are well-noted.
The findings raise the question of how companies can better address employee burnout, blurred work-life boundaries, and mental health issues as work expectations change.
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But there are still some who support a return to the 9-5 office model. “Globally, a quarter of people want to work in the office five days a week as soon as the pandemic is over,” the survey noted. They also believe the work-from-home setup is untenable long term.
Arguably, experts have noted the flexible work life we desire, and the one that has unfolded over the last year, blurs the lines between work and personal life. This translates into burnout and poorer mental health among employees, as several studies have shown, noting that employees are doing work round the clock irrespective of their space. A Microsoft report from April this year noted noted one in five people said their employer don’t care about work-life balance and a majority feel overworked and exhausted.
“Hybrid arrangements should never replicate existing bad practices,” Lynda Gratton noted in the Harvard Business Review.
Designing any flexible work model thus has to start with putting the freedom and preferences of the employees at the very center of decisions. The Microsoft survey explained that “employees want the benefits of remote working with the option of collaborating in-person when needed.” An efficient work model is one that recognizes the worker’s needs and responds to it with suitable options.
“Each employee is unique,” Scott Dust, a management professor at Miami University, U.S., writes for Fast Company. “Everyone has different needs, motivations, values, work-home situations, and more. You can’t structure an organization around a narrow approach to work hours without annoying a subset of your talent pool.”
Moreover, addressing burnout and mental health issues in a workforce likely living with trauma post-pandemic becomes critical. This is because “robust cognitive abilities, overall wellness and enhanced productivity require sound mental health capital. Ergo, the presence of such capital aids with economic growth and development,” as Poulomi Roy noted in Science Wire. The International Labor Organization has already forecasted that Gen Z and those entering the professional field during the pandemic may suffer severe and long-term effects impacting their productivity.
In the end, the question of continuing work-from-home models becomes redundant if work life continues round the clock. The focus has to be on encouraging a healthy balancine between work and personal life and incorporating flexibility in all facets.