Future Forum Releases Snapshot of Summer 2022 Global Pulse Survey: Employee Demands for Greater Flexibility at Work Intensify

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Future Forum, a consortium launched by Slack with founding partners Boston Consulting Group, MillerKnoll and MLT to help companies redesign work in the new digital-first workplace, today released key findings from its latest global Pulse study, which shows that employees continue to want flexibility—in both work location and work schedule—and are willing to change jobs to gain more control over where and when they work.

The Future Forum Pulse is a quarterly survey of more than 10,000 knowledge workers in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. The data shows that full-time in-office workers report markedly lower employee experience scores compared to hybrid and full-time remote workers, as the number of knowledge workers who want to be in the office full-time dropped to 20%, the lowest point in two years of surveying.

“Today’s workplace environment is centered around flexibility, and employees without it remain at a strong risk of attrition,” said Brian Elliott, Executive Leader of Future Forum. “Companies looking to build productive, successful teams need to think about how they provide flexibility not only in where but also when people work.”

This summer snapshot of Future Forum’s latest global Pulse survey answers the key questions that business leaders are asking as they navigate how to implement flexible work policies and create a workplace where all employees can thrive:

Where are people working?

The trend of knowledge workers being pulled back into the physical office held steady this quarter. Thirty-four percent of knowledge workers say they’re working full-time from the office—a continuation of the record high reached in February 2022.

The number of people working in a hybrid arrangement increased four percentage points from 45% to 49%, as those in full-time remote work arrangements dropped from 21% to 18%.

How are people feeling about work?

The preference for flexible work reached an all-time high this quarter, with 55% of knowledge workers preferring to work fewer than three days a week in the office. Full-time in-office workers are the least satisfied with their working arrangement: they report significantly worse employee experience scores compared to hybrid and full-time remote employees, most notably for work-life balance and work-related stress and anxiety.

The executive-employee disconnect first observed in fall 2021 continues; executives show markedly higher scores for employee experience, including 1.3x higher scores for overall satisfaction with their work environment compared to non-executive employees. And non-executives reported 1.5x worse work-related stress and anxiety scores compared to executives.

The Desire for Flexibility Solidifies Among Global Employees

Flexible work policies—not only in where, but also when people work—are top of mind for employees globally, and flexibility still ranks second only to compensation in terms of job satisfaction.

How do knowledge workers feel about flexible work?

  • 80% of all knowledge workers now want flexibility in where they work, including a majority (53%) of full-time in-office workers.
  • 94% of employees want flexibility in when they work, a continuing trend from Future Forum’s previous quarterly survey, but more than 57% of employees say they have little to no ability to adjust their hours from a preset schedule.
  • 55% of employees surveyed are open to looking for a new job in the next year, and among those who say they are dissatisfied with their level of flexibility, 70% will look for a new opportunity.

Lack of schedule flexibility dramatically impacts employee experience scores. Compared to those with moderate schedule flexibility, knowledge workers who say they have little to no ability to set their own hours report:

  • 3.4x worse work-related stress and anxiety
  • 2.2x worse work-life balance

Employees with rigid work schedules also say they are 3x more likely to “definitely” look for a new job in the next year (up from 2.6x in February).

Flexibility Remains a Strong Driver for Inclusion

Flexible work practices are a key component in building inclusive workplaces. While diversity, equity, and inclusion has been a priority for executives over the past two years, it’s important to recognize that future of work planning and practices fostering workplace belonging must go hand in hand.

“Underrepresented knowledge workers, who are crucial to the success of any organization, want flexibility in both where and when they work. They feel a stronger sense of belonging and feel more productive when given the choice of how they want to work,” said Sheela Subramanian, Vice President and Co-Founder of Future Forum. “Flexible work policies are foundational to a company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion priorities.”

How does interest in flexibility differ based on race/ethnicity? (U.S. only)

Results from this quarter demonstrate that underrepresented groups continue to benefit from and prefer hybrid or fully remote work arrangements. The percentage of U.S. respondents by race/ethnicity that prefer these environments:

  • 88% Asian / Asian American (up from 82% in February)
  • 83% Black
  • 81% Hispanic / Latinx
  • 79% White

How does interest in flexibility differ based on gender/parental status?

In addition, preference for location flexibility continues to be valuable to parents, including an all-time high of 83% of working mothers. The percentage of working parents who want to work flexibly three to five days a week:

  • 60% of working mothers (up from 58% in February)
  • 50% of working fathers (up from 48% in February)

Employees Seek Creative Ways to Connect Within the New Workplace

To foster connection in a distributed work environment, leaders need to redesign the role of the office and rethink the role of technology to better encourage collaboration in a flexible work environment.

What motivates people to want to come into the office?

The office remains an important anchor for employees but the primary purpose of office space is shifting. Two-thirds of employees (66%) say they prefer a hybrid arrangement with the option to access a physical space. When asked what drivers bring employees to the office:

  • 74% say collaborating with co-workers/clients, building camaraderie, and facilitating in-person meetings
  • 16% say having a quiet space to focus on getting work done
  • 10% say putting in face time with management

How does the perception of technology affect employee sentiment?

Embracing digital tools is a key component in building connections with employees. Consistent with quarter-over-quarter findings, people who work at companies they describe as technology innovators continue to show higher employee experience scores on all dimensions (compared to those who describe their employers as technology laggards), including:

  • 1.5x higher scores on productivity
  • 2x higher scores on sense of belonging
  • 2.5x higher scores on overall satisfaction

How does the perception of transparency affect employee sentiment?

Knowledge workers who believe their employer communicates transparently show markedly higher scores for employee experience and engagement.

  • Employees who perceive their companies to be transparent have 12x greater job satisfaction than employees who have the opposite perception.
  • Employees who don’t believe their company “is being very transparent regarding post-pandemic remote working policies” are 3.4x more likely to “definitely” look for a new position in the coming year.
  • Among executives, 66% believe they are being “very transparent,” but only 43% of employees agree.

For more findings, view the full Future Forum Q2 Pulse report. In October 2022, Future Forum will release in-depth results from its quarterly survey, including analysis of emerging trends in knowledge workers’ experience.

Methodology

This Future Forum Pulse surveyed 10,818 knowledge workers in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. between May 2 – May 16, 2022. The survey was administered by Qualtrics and did not target Slack employees or customers. Respondents were all knowledge workers, defined as employed full-time (30 or more hours per week) and either having one of the roles listed below or saying they “work with data, analyze information or think creatively”: Executive Management (e.g., President/Partner, CEO, CFO, C-suite), Senior Management (e.g., Executive VP, Senior VP), Middle Management (e.g., Department/Group Manager, VP), Junior Management (e.g., Manager, Team Leader), Senior Staff (i.e., Non-Management), Skilled Office Worker (e.g., Analyst, Graphic Designer).

The Future Forum Pulse measures how knowledge workers feel about their working lives on a five-point scale (from “very poor” to “very good”) across eight dimensions on an index from -60 (most negative) to +60 (most positive).

Contacts

Lauren McDevitt

[email protected]

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