WFH Puts Employees at Inflection Point

Image credit: iStockphoto/holaillustrations

WFH has an interesting impact on the way employees view work.

According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, 40% of the global workforce are thinking about leaving their employer this year.

Part of the reason is that WFH and remote working are creating new opportunities and challenges. It also means that employers need to be more thoughtful about attracting and retaining talent through hybrid working.

The research pointed to seven trends that employers need to look at closely.

1. Face it, flexible work is permanent

Over 70% of employees want flexible remote work options to continue; over 65% still want more in-person time with their teams. So, employers need to put careful thought into how they redesign physical spaces to support hybrid working. These physical spaces should not be limited to the office. The research noted over 46% weren’t happy that their employers do not help them with work expenses. This issue is already creating debate among Asian employers.

2. Hybrid working success is a gender, generation thing

The report showed that business leaders fared better; their employees, not so much. This disparity goes along gender- and generation lines, however. Those who said they were faring better were more likely Millennials or Gen X, male, information workers, and senior. Gen Z, women, frontline employees, and those new to work suffered most. HR leaders need to consider DEI initiatives when rolling out hybrid working.

3. High productivity is leading to high exhaustion

One in five respondents said their employer doesn’t care about work-life balance. Fifty-four percent feel overworked, and 39% are exhausted. Research showed that the increase in unstructured and unplanned communications was to blame. So, employers need to cut back on these and reduce ad hoc meetings. And the fact that 50% of employees respond to Team chats shows that remote working life remains intense.  

4. Take special care of Gen Z

Sixty percent of Gen Z (ages 18 to 25) said they barely survive or struggle with WFH. Since most of them would be single, isolation and loneliness are significant concerns. They will also find creating a proper workplace challenging as they are only starting out to build their finances. Many of them said that staying engaged in meetings and thinking of new ideas are more difficult with remote working. It means employers need to take special care of this generation, many of whom will represent a significant part of the workforce in the future.

5. External influence networks are getting smaller

We are becoming more siloed with our networks with remote working. The research showed that employees spend more time with their colleagues and less with those outside of work. It may be apparent, but it also limits influence and our ability to solve challenges. More worryingly, many of the interactions with team members also diminish over time. Companies need to create a more engaged workforce but also help to widen personal networks. Such an approach can ultimately help in creativity and innovation.

6. Get ready for an authentic culture

The lockdown measures saw many survey respondents becoming more open about their feelings. One in five met their colleagues’ pets or families virtually, and 17% cried with a colleague this year. This number was even higher for those in industries hit hardest during this time, like education (20%), travel and tourism (21%), and healthcare (23%). Employers will need to prepare for a very different mindset regarding hybrid working and will need to cater to safe spaces, either virtually or physically.

7. Talent is everywhere

HR leaders will be happy to note that hybrid working has widened the talent pool. Although countries have added additional employment restrictions, employers still have access to talent overseas remotely. Employees are also shifting locations because they can now work remotely, with 46% of remote workers planning to move to a new location this year. Rebuilding or rethinking current HR processes for remote workers is well advised.

Winston Thomas is the editor-in-chief of CDOTrends. HR&DigitalTrends and DataOpsTrends. He is always curious about all things digital, including new digital business models, the widening impact of AI/ML, unproven singularity theories, proven data science success stories, lurking cybersecurity dangers, and reimagining the digital experience. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/holaillustrations