The workplace has transformed dramatically over the last two years. Once considered the perk of a job position, remote working is now the norm, with many organizations making the shift to working from home. 

In 2021,  many companies began to re-open their physical office spaces during the return to office transition. For some employers, that meant heading back into the workplace full-time. However, others led a more cautious approach, implementing a hybrid work model to provide their employees with more flexibility.

Will hybrid working continue in 2022? With many employees experiencing the benefits of remote working, like  less stress, improved mood, and being more engaged at work, employers may have to start embracing flexible working practices to keep their workforce satisfied. And with turnover and hiring challenges continuing into 2022, flexible work helps companies attract and retain top talent.

There’s no cookie-cutter approach to the hybrid working model so understanding the present state of hybrid working, and what employee expectations are, can help businesses to move forward with the best intentions – for both their teams and the future of the company.

To discover more ways to engage employees in 2022, here are the key hybrid work statistics you should know from our 5th annual Owl Labs State of Remote Work 2021. We surveyed 2,050 full-time U.S workers to uncover the top remote work statistics and trends to predict how 2022 may look in the contemporary workplace. 

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How are people working in 2021?

1. Hybrid working has become a common working practice

In 2021, 73% of full-time U.S workers returned to the office at least one day per week. As COVID-19 restrictions eased, physical workplaces started to open. 25% of those surveyed planned to return to the physical workplace in fall 2021. Since Covid cases are still prevalent it makes sense that some organizations are remaining careful. To enable employees to continue working remotely with effective lines of communication, 38% of businesses invested in improved video technology in 2021.

2. Productivity levels remain high, but beware of burnout

Despite the distractions that working from home can bring, such as childcare, running errands, or household chores, 90% of the respondents that worked from home say that they were as productive —  if not more so —  than when working in the office. However, with high productivity comes longer working hours. 55% felt that they worked more hours remotely. To support your employees’ well-being, evaluate how your company can implement remote and flexible work policies to ensure a more-structured workday and check in with remote employees to monitor their wellbeing. 

3. Employees moved to suit their needs and create a healthier work-life balance

27% of remote workers relocated during the pandemic, while 6% made a permanent move. With more companies offering flexibility in remote or hybrid working, some employees are taking advantage of their location freedom. 

Younger remote workers (between 21 and 40) temporarily relocated 14X more than those who are 40+. If offered flexibility, younger employees want to experience the independence of being able to work from anywhere, establishing a work-life balance that is based around their needs rather than job location. 

4. Most remote employees worked from their home office

Working from home during the pandemic meant employees had to be creative in the places they worked from. In 2021, 21% of employees worked from their closet (up from 15% in 2020 — we want to see these workspace setups), while 24% chose to work outdoors. However, working from a home office proved most popular — 73% of people have a dedicated workspace at home

How are employee expectations for the office matching up with employer expectations?

1. Employers are opening their physical space, but employees still want flexible work options

In 2021, 39% of employers required staff to work full-time from the office. But as businesses continue the return to office transition, it may be a good idea to think beyond physical premises. Almost 1 in 2 workers would take a pay cut up to 5% to be able to work remotely at least part-time. And 8 in 10 employees feel that they would be happier if they were able to work remotely after the pandemic.  As COVID-19 persists as a safety concern, people may feel safer working from home, especially as they also get to experience location freedom amongst other benefits. 

In 2021, almost 50% of people would take a 5% pay cut to be able to work remotely at least part-time.

2. Employees are still feeling uncertain about the future

One of the key remote work statistics from the survey data is that 42% of workers feel stressed about their employer’s in-office requirements. Health and safety are still a priority for many people. And with the use of technology enabling employees to work from any location they desire (and 90% feeling the same or more productive), hybrid and remote options are something that many will desire going forward. Ask your employees for their opinions on return to office policies and decisions. 

3. The majority still feel valued in their jobs

Despite the shift in how the workplace operates, ¾ of workers still feel valued by their company, while 72% felt like their voice was heard. The overall tone of how workers felt during 2021 remains largely positive, particularly as 73% also felt empowered to make decisions

Remote working means individuals are responsible for their own approach to work, rather than being micromanaged at every step of the way. Giving employees the freedom to make decisions allows them to be more successful and productive while working  remotely or on a hybrid schedule. You may not be able to physically monitor your employees, but you can still set expectations about results and outcomes.

A thriving remote or hybrid team relies on a strong culture of trust, communication, autonomy, and the tools to support collaboration.  

What 2022 Holds for the Future of the Workplace 

1. Employees want flexible working options

Almost 1 in 2 said they would start looking for another job if they were no longer able to work remotely. However, people were open to flexible working options as 60% of people would be interested in working from a coworking space. While employees are favoring the opportunity of remote work, the need for physical interaction with others still exists.

In an evolving workplace, the future is heading towards hybrid working solutions. It’s never too early to start thinking about how you can include hybrid and flexible policies within your organization. 

2. From those that returned to the office, the majority prefer to work from home

57% of people prefer working from home full-time rather than going into the physical workplace. How can your company evolve to meet the needs of these workers? Be open with your employees as to how you intend to move forward with in-office requirements and consider using a tailored approach with some staff working in-office and others working remotely. 

Provide flexible seating, room and desk reservation systems, and in-person social activities or educational workshops as options for in-office days.

3. Companies need to invest in remote collaboration tools

In 2021, 22% of companies reduced their physical office space as teams worked from remote locations. However, only 38% of businesses upgraded their video technology. Collaboration and conversation proved to be one major challenge of remote working. 70% of people found some difficulty in contributing or being a part of video calls, while 72% said they struggled to see who was speaking.

If your team will be working remotely in 2022, investing in better technology will increase remote employee engagement, and make it easier for teams to communicate, inclusively. 

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4. Workplaces and spaces need to evolve

Despite the majority of employees having positive reactions to home working, there’s still a need for the physical workplace to remain. 78% of workers said they felt more included when working within the physical office

Collaboration has always been the center of every workplace. In 2022, companies will need to evaluate their communication systems to ensure collaboration remains ongoing regardless of where their employees are working. That may include implementing a range of digital tools and technologies to maintain the community feel of the office. 

5. Top working trends for the future include reduced working hours

What does 2022 really hold for the future of the workplace? One of the key hybrid work statistics from the report revealed that 87% of workers are interested in 10 hour/4-day work weeks while 82% are interested in core working hours. Implementing specific working hours for remote or hybrid working employees helps to prevent the risk of burnout, stress, and mental health issues. However, 84% of people were also interested in flexible policies that wouldn’t require them to be in the office at specific times. 

Employee-directed schedules are a future trend that businesses will need to consider. People are looking for flexibility to help their work-life balance, whether that’s having to balance childcare with working from home, looking after a pet, or other household responsibilities. Having the option to work from the office or coworking space provides a sense of community and feeling involved, a productive work environment for those who prefer a more structured workspace, as well as presenting a change of scenery. 

Having a long-term hybrid working strategy for your business in 2022 and beyond will help to develop a thriving company that will retain employees, ensuring they’re less stressed and more engaged. Engaged employees produce better work, so by embracing flexible trends you’ll build a healthier company for both staff and clients.  

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