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February 5, 2024

How the WFH Movement has Impacted Employee Expectations

It’s been nearly four years since COVID-19 up-ended the workplace and we are finally back to normal. Or are we? True, some employees have resumed their commutes and in-office routines, but consensus says that we will never go back to the old ways. This means businesses must work hard to stay in tune with current demands and be prepared to adapt, or risk obsolescence.   

The fact is that employees have a different viewpoint on the structure of work than they did a few years ago, and many of the new workplace demands and expectations created during the pandemic are still holding strong. For example, job seekers evaluating new opportunities no longer assume they will have to report to an office location every day. Having a choice of work environment and location has become a key factor for job seekers. A recent Gallup survey found that 8 in 10 people are working hybrid or remote. According to the research, this trend continues for future predictions, as 8 in 10 Chief Human Resource Officers don’t plan on reducing remote work in the next year.

A 2023 Qualtrix report supports the Gallup survey findings and suggests that employees and the organizations they work for are focused on incorporating more balance into their work lives. While remote work brings more opportunities to create a healthy work-life balance, it also has its downsides. Working at home can leave employees feeling isolated, with a more limited ability to connect and collaborate effectively with co-workers. The research finds that a hybrid work structure is the ideal solution for the overall employee experience, spending one to three days in the office for engagement, well-being, inclusion, and intent to stay with the organization. 

A hybrid work environment requires employees to operate both on-premise and in remote work environments. Organizations cobbled together what they could during the unprecedented and abrupt need to work from home during COVID-19. But, as organizations now have time to strategize the future of their work environments, this is an opportunity to modernize both their approach and their technology.

Another surprising finding of this research is just how much employees want to have a voice and be heard when it comes to improving the employee experience. Respondents who were engaged in their jobs said they were willing to share their private work communications data including Slack messages and emails. They don’t mind if employers monitor them if it helps to improve their work experience. A whopping 85% of engaged respondents said they are comfortable with their organization listening to their emails, and 64% are comfortable with their organization listening to their group messages in digital workspaces. With regard to social media, however, it is not surprising that the numbers are less supportive. Only 53% of engaged employees said they are comfortable with their organization listening to their anonymous social media posts.

As employers try to stay current and meet their employees’ changing expectations, the key will be finding solutions that make employees’ lives easier as well as increase motivation, engagement, and productivity. For example, digital experience tools such as collaboration and messaging platforms should be accessible from anywhere and streamline work, rather than add to it. Work-from-home policies should be designed to benefit both the employee and the company and be supported by well-constructed policies and practices around access to employee communications data. And above all, it will be important to remain flexible to stay in tune with evolving expectations. After all, even in the digital age, your workforce is your greatest asset and most important investment. 

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