For the past six years, we’ve taken a yearly deep dive into the world of remote work and published the State of Remote Work Report. We’ve looked at the benefits of working remotely, the challenges, and why some companies embraced it while others hesitated to do so. But the COVID pandemic changed everything and the way we work will never be the same.
Working from home, which used to be a once-a-week perk available at only the most forward-looking companies, quickly became a necessity. Over the following two years, employees got used to working from home at least some of the time, and companies adjusted (and re-adjusted) their policies and reopened their offices. Employee preferences became solidified over this period, and hybrid and remote work have grown in popularity.
By offering the opportunity to work remotely or on a hybrid basis, employees enjoy the empowerment and flexibility that comes with choosing where they work on any given day, and companies have been able to right-size their spaces and enjoy significant savings on real estate.
This year, 16% more employees have chosen to work hybrid than last year, and 24% more employees have decided that full-time work from home is for them — even amid companies re-opening their offices all year. This year, we learned that flexibility is key to employee satisfaction and loyalty, and the companies that are thriving are prioritizing employee preference.
The Owl Labs State of Remote Work 2022 Report is full of remote and hybrid work statistics that can help companies face the current moment and better prepare for the future. We’ll dive into two major areas: employee work preferences and behaviors and company changes that can help employees and businesses thrive.
Our State of Remote Work 2022 Report shows that employee preferences have changed drastically over the past few years, and if their employer can’t meet their needs, they’ve got no problem seeking out a new job.
Part of what makes hybrid and remote work so appealing is that employees can more easily establish a work-life balance and do their best work on their own terms. In fact, 62% of workers reported that they feel more productive when working remotely.
Another extremely compelling reason why employees are loving remote and hybrid work is the cost savings: we found that hybrid workers save $19.11 every day that they work from home instead of going into the office. If an employee goes into the office twice a week and works from home three times a week, they can save nearly $3,000 in one year alone.
Despite employees feeling very clear on how they want to work, not all companies are ready to accommodate those needs. While some employees have chosen to come back to the office a few days a week to socialize and feel more connected to their teams, 42% of employees would still prefer to work fully remote, yet only 31% of employers offer that option. And 31% of employees expressed that they prefer to work hybrid — 29% of employers shared that they offer that option.
With the extreme social, economic, and physical challenges of the past few years, employees have learned to pursue what’s best for them. Two-thirds (66%) of workers reported that they would immediately start looking for a job that offered flexibility if their current job took away the ability to work from home.
To that end, about one-third (29%) of workers did change jobs in the past year. Another 9% are still looking for their next role, holding out for a work environment and role that suits the life they want to live.
Hybrid work is not without its complexities, and most companies are still trying to figure out the specific policies and platforms that work for their employee base and business needs. It’s a brand-new world, and most workplace experience teams, executive teams, and HR teams are hard at work, trying out ways of working they’d never been able to plan for.
But our report showed that there are three major areas where companies have near-infinite opportunities to improve: space usage, technology, and training.
While 37% of employers reported closing or decreasing their office space, 21% shared they’d made no changes yet. Many companies are trying to wait for things to level out before making any big changes, but this approach is limiting to the employee experience: the desire for flexibility, and hybrid work as a whole, aren’t going anywhere, so making employees work in near-empty offices and using outdated technology serves no one.
We found that most employees feel the office is best for meetings, collaboration, and meeting new people, but that people are split on where they do their best heads-down brainstorming work: 39% preferred the office, and 37% preferred home.
Employees of various age groups seem to interact differently with remote work and office use. Millennials and Gen Z shared that they feel more productive at home, while Boomers and Gen X reported being more productive at the office.
Whether or not companies have decided to get rid of excess space, companies need to invest in redesigning the spaces they do have to reflect the new ways that all employees use the office, with spaces for loud, collaborative work as well as quiet areas and booths for focus work and private calls.
Ultimately, unused, empty office space is costing companies money that could be better spent on technology improvements that make hybrid work better and easier for all their employees.
Only one-third (36%) of employers reported that they’d upgraded their video meeting technology since the start of the pandemic — meaning their employees are likely still dealing with microphone feedback, teams crowding around a laptop, and remote employees feeling unheard and disconnected.
It’s now understood that nearly all meetings today and in the future will have at least one remote participant. The best hybrid technology ensures every employee, both remote and in-office, can be seen, heard, and understood, so companies must proactively improve the system they use to make everyone feel included. And upgrades to videoconferencing technology don’t have to take the form of complete system overhauls, and they can be much more budget-friendly than you’d expect.
In addition to upgrading their tech, savvy companies are investing in training their teams to work in this new environment. 1 in 2 (50%) employers have invested in running training sessions for managers, teaching them to manage remote and hybrid teams — because it’s a very different skill set than in-person management. 54% have spent time teaching workers on how to hold inclusive and effective hybrid meetings.
45% of workers reported that their workplace stress has increased this year. As a result, companies everywhere are finding ways to better support their people, prevent burnout, and reduce turnover, such as offering flexibility to work where they want and implementing technology that ensures no one is left behind.
Workplace changes can be overwhelming, so keep the lines of communication open. Test new strategies and survey your teams to see how it’s working out, and adjust the course from there.