COVID-19 has upended the way we work—and there’s no turning back.
Before the pandemic, only 6% of employees primarily worked from home. Now, 45% of full-time U.S. employees telework either all or part of the time.
Despite long-held employer stigmas regarding decreased efficiency when employees work remotely, productivity levels from these new remote employees remained steady—with many companies reporting even better performance working from home.
Organizations are making plans to return to the office long-term, but they won’t be able to return to business as usual. Today’s employees have new expectations for their employers, including greater flexibility, autonomy, and workplace balance—especially among millennial and Gen Z workers. With 83% of workers preferring a hybrid work model going forward, companies will need to focus on supporting a more dynamic, complex, and technology-enabled future if they want to retain and engage productive employees.
One of the biggest challenges to this brave new workplace is that workforce policies and models were designed around in-person workers. In order to meet the growing demand for flexibility and autonomy from the new generations entering the workforce, companies need to invest in the resources and technology to support productivity from anywhere.
A snapshot into the wants and needs of today’s workforce.
While many offices have reopened since the start of the pandemic, the impact on employee expectations cannot be overstated.
"Demand for permanent flexible working pattern changes has been unlocked," researchers note in the University of Southampton's Work After Lockdown study. "Employers must be ready to meet that demand with well-defined positions on hybrid and flexible working for every job role for the existing workforce and new recruits."
Balancing generational needs
A key part of addressing evolving workplace expectations is recognizing the differences between generations. Today, Gen Z and millennials now comprise nearly half (46%) of the full-time workforce in the U.S. By 2030, 74% of the workforce will be millennial and Generation Z workers.
In order to remain competitive, businesses preparing for the future of work must account for the evolving preferences of these younger generations—without neglecting the needs of established employees.
The number one thing younger workers want in an employer is a focus on well-being and work-life balance. Well-being encompasses everything from physical health and workplace safety to flexibility and support for remote workers juggling family responsibilities.
To meet this growing expectation, businesses will need to get creative with their workplace policies, technology, and resources to support their employees.
Flexibility and autonomy
Millennial and Gen Z employees differ from older generations in a few key areas, particularly when it comes to mobility and autonomy.
While older workers traditionally worked from home more than younger workers pre-pandemic, Gen Z and millennials value mobility and tend to work in a greater variety of locations, including home offices, coworking spaces, client locations, and even while commuting.
Additionally, two-thirds of Gen Z and millennial employees say being able to choose the technology they use for work, including apps, services, and devices, is a top priority—compared to “only” 53% of Gen X workers and 45% of baby boomers.
Meeting these expectations through a model that accommodates productivity from anywhere isn’t just good for workers—it’s good for business too. In fact, 85% of businesses that provide work-life balance opportunities report that they are more productive.
So how can you enable productivity from anywhere? Technology.
How to Use Technology to Unlock Productivity.
Productivity tools remain core parts of employee tool belts across all generations, but younger generations see technology as an extension of themselves. They’re excited to integrate cutting-edge technologies to support daily work and expect technology to be a seamless part of their workday, whether at the office, at home, or on the go.
Merging an evolved mentality of workplace flexibility with the latest technology empowers employees to work at their highest potential. In fact, 43% of workers agree that flexible working hours helped them achieve greater productivity, with 26% adding that additional technology resources enabled them to be more productive.
And it makes sense. Productivity tools, mobile devices, and remote collaboration solutions let employees work when and where they want—giving them greater control over their time and the flexibility to meet both work and personal responsibilities. This leads to happier, healthier employees who can focus on their work when they are most productive—instead of based on standardized work schedules that may not align with their most productive working hours.
The result? When employees have a choice over where, when, and how much they work, 55% are high performers.
Sixty-three percent of high-growth companies have already enabled productivity anywhere models. Businesses that want to be competitive need to invest in a model that enables productivity from anywhere—or get left behind.
“The employers that get this right will have a more engaged workforce, greater employee retention, and better ability to attract top talent,” said Brian Kropp, Distinguished VP of Research at Gartner.
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