In 2020, the workforce was thrown into the unknown as the world battled the COVID-19 pandemic. While forced to take laptops home and work remote, many realized they didn’t care to go back to the office. At least not full time. Three years later, it seems that the sentiment has stuck.
Owl Labs surveyed 2,000 full-time workers in the United States for its “State of Hybrid Work 2023” report. Employees’ top priority? Flexibility.
In fact, if workers were no longer able to work flexibly, one in three said they would start looking for a new job, according to the data. A staggering 62 percent are willing to accept a pay cut of 10 percent or more for greater work flexibility. Respondents said the flexibility creates a positive impact on productivity, work-life balance and company loyalty.
“The traditional “perks” that once worked for luring them [employees] in [back to the office] are no longer cutting it,” Owl Labs CEO Frank Weishaupt told Newsweek. “What employees really want is plain and simple: to save money and have more flexibility.”
Working From the Office:
Along with flexibility, working from home is cheaper for many who save on commuting, food, daycare and pet-care costs. The report found hybrid workers spend $51 daily when working from the office—$36 more than they would from home. Due to these costs, about 30 percent of respondents would expect a pay increase if required to return to the office full time.
“Companies should consider paying for employees’ commuting costs, subsidizing food and beverages, and/or providing on-site childcare or eldercare if they truly want to entice employees back into the office,” Weishaupt told Newsweek.
*The report’s breakdown did not include childcare, which typically costs far more.
Hybrid Work Challenges
The transition to hybrid work hasn’t been without its challenges. A significant 64 percent of respondents feel overwhelmed by the multitude of communication platforms their companies use. This digital fatigue, coupled with the fact that 56 percent of workers report increased work-related stress since last year, highlights the need for companies to streamline communication and prioritize employee well-being.
The report also delves into the trend of “coffee badging”—the act of briefly showing up at the office before heading out (a professional cameo, if you will). About 58 percent of hybrid employees admit coffee badging to “show face.”
The study also asked respondents about their concerns regarding proximity bias. A significant 63 percent of employees fear that managers perceive in-office workers as more dedicated and trustworthy than their remote counterparts. This perception could be contributing to the 52 percent of respondents who feel disengaged at work, with 31 percent attributing their disengagement to declining mental health.
The most popular working schedule? Most, 45 percent, preferred working in the office three days per week.
The survey asked employees what makes them feel disengaged and concerned. The top responses included declining mental health, an overwhelming workload and fears of a recession. A further breakdown can be found below.
What Makes Employees Feel Disengaged?
Their mental health has decreased over the past year: 31 percentTheir workload has increased and they can’t keep up: 30 percentThe lack of onsite learning on the job: 22 percentThey don’t feel connected to the company or culture: 20 percentThey don’t feel fairly compensated: 19 percentThey don’t have a sense of personal accomplishment: 19 percentLoneliness/they don’t feel connected to their teams: 18 percentThey don’t see any growth opportunities: 17 percentThey don’t feel valued: 15 percent
Top Employee Concerns
A recession: 56 percentLack of career progression: 55 percentNot being given the flexibility they want: 55 percentBeing micromanaged: 55 percentHaving work monitored: 54 percentWorry over job stability: 53 percentDisengagement with work: 52 percentBeing forced to be in the office full time: 52 percentRelationships with colleagues: 52 percentTheir workload is too heavy: 52 percentNot feeling seen + heard in meetings as a remote participant: 51 percent
In 2023, nearly half of respondents said they have either a second job or a side hustle.
Full-time office employees are over two times more likely to hold an additional job compared to hybrid or remote workers. Which employees are most likely to have another gig? In this study, the answer is overwhelmingly millennials, at 74 percent, followed by Gen Z (13 percent), baby boomers (13 percent) and Gen X (11 percent).
“This year’s data shows us that many companies have a lot more work to do to provide an attractive, productive and stress-free office environment that makes employees want to gather,” Weishaupt said.
To read how Newsweek uses AI as a newsroom tool, click here.