What ‘flexibility’ means in the new world of work
Two years into the pandemic, employees are burnt out, and the majority (58%) say their job is the main source of their mental health challenges. The pandemic has brought increased flexibility to many people’s jobs. Remote and hybrid work have made it possible for people to avoid a commute and start work earlier or later in the day as well as balance some household and childcare tasks from home.
The lines between life and work have become increasingly blurred, according to 69% of employees, and some say that’s had a positive impact on their mental health (24%), while others say it’s had a negative impact (23%). As an antidote to burnout, employees want more “flexibility” but not everyone agrees on what that means. New research from Qualtrics shows that employees prioritize the ability to choose the hours and days of the week they work, over the ability to work remotely from any location. 87% say they want to be in control of their schedules and have their performance measured purely by results rather than hours work.
On the other hand, while there is a need for more flexibility at work, the majority (57%) agree there are downsides to having no separation between their job and personal time. Qualtrics asked more than 1,000 full time employees what ‘flexibility’ means to them in the new world of work.
Mental health challenges
Flexible work is one of the top things employees say would improve their mental health at work, beat out only by increased pay and working one day less a week.
- 58% of employees say their job is the main source of their mental health challenges
- 61% of desk-based workers agree with this statement, compared to 51% of non-desk based workers
- The top 3 things that employees say would improve their mental health are:
- 1) Higher pay (58%)
- 2) Four-day work week (46%)
- 3) Flexibility to work whenever, wherever they want (36%)
- 55% say more flexibility over hours and schedule would influence them to stay at a company longer
- 60% of desk-based workers say flexibility over hours and schedule would influence them to stay at a company longer vs. 48% of non-desk-based workers
When asked to choose the best definition for ‘flexible work,’ the most employees said “choosing which hours you want to work (i.e. not strict 9 to 5 schedule)."
- When asked to rank the type of flexibility that is most important to them, the top answers were:
- 1) Flexibility to work however many hours and days I want
- 2) Flexibility to work from wherever I want
- 3) Flexibility to choose when to work a predetermined number of hours
- 4) Flexibility to take vacation whenever I want
- 5) Flexibility to run errands or go see a doctor during the workday
- 87% support being in control of their schedules and having performance measured by results. The top reasons are:
- 1) It would increase efficiency (50%)
- 2) It would help me focus (44%)
- 3) It would bring more attention to my contributions and achievements (31%)
- 4) It would create an even playing field among coworkers, decrease discrimination (26%)
- 5) It would allow me to spend less time at work (26%)
- Only 11% of employees say they already have a work situation where their hours are not tracked and their performance is measured by results
Working remotely from crazy locations
- 24% of employees are fully remote and 54% have worked remotely for at least a month during the pandemic
- Remote workers have done their jobs from everywhere, including: a bathtub, the Starbucks drive-through, a nail salon, a city bus and an amusement park, according to respondents.
- 24% of remote workers have worked from the couch
- 22% have worked from a bed
- 19% have worked from a different city
- 10% have worked from a car
- 7% have worked from a beach
- 34% of employees would be willing to take a 5% pay cut or more in order to work remotely indefinitely
- 51% of tech workers would be willing to take a 5% pay cut or more in exchange for remote work, compared to 24% of government workers and 24% of travel, hospitality and food workers.
Blurred lines between work and life
Remote work has blurred the lines between home life and work life. For some, this has had a positive impact on their mental health, and for others this has been negative.
- 69% say the lines between work and life have become increasingly blurred
- 23% say those blurred lines have had a negative impact on mental health vs. 24% who say it has had a positive impact
- Remote work has changed people’s daily schedules:
- 20% of remote workers start work earlier in the day
- 18% take fewer sick days
- 17% spend more time working in total
- 14% work more outside the typical hours of 9-to-5
- 8% admit to slacking off
- 57% say there is a downside to too much flexibility and they would prefer some amount of structure to separate work from personal life
Supporting policies with culture
Even when there are flexible policies, employees don’t always feel comfortable taking advantage of them.
- 55% say they think their career advancement or pay will suffer if they take advantage of flexible policies at work
- Men are more likely than women to believe they will suffer (58% vs. 52%)
- Managers are more likely than individual contributors to believe they will suffer (59% vs. 44%)
- Tech workers are more likely than employees of other industries to believe they will suffer if they take advantage of flexible policies at work
- 67% of tech workers say their career will suffer
- 56% of travel, food and hospitality workers say their career will suffer
- 40% of government workers say their career will suffer
Learn more about employee experience management
This study was fielded between Jan. 10 and Jan. 12, 2022. Respondents were selected from a randomized panel and considered eligible if they live in the United States, are at least 18 years of age and are employed full-time. The total number of respondents was 1,021. Respondents who did not pass quality standards were removed.
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