Hybrid work is here to stay

If there was one key takeaway from this year’s report - where we surveyed 2,000 respondents across the UK - it would be that hybrid work is now the norm and flexibility is quickly becoming table stakes. Over the past 2+ years, employees globally have adapted to a work-from-anywhere lifestyle and expect flexibility when it comes to where and - increasingly more so - when they work. 

We’ve heard loads about the ‘Great Resignation’, but what we’ve learnt in our 2022 State of Hybrid Work report is that what employees want is simple. They want their employers to listen, care, and adapt to their new needs and workplace expectations. Now, for the 56% that have switched jobs or are actively looking to do so - flexible work (in location and hours) proved to be their top priority. 

The pandemic forced a remote work experiment that impacted workers across the globe and showed us all a few things. With a laptop, internet, Slack, and email, you can still be productive from just about anywhere. The physical office is no longer the only location to be productive, but you may need to work harder to build connections with colleagues and friends over Zoom. We’ll get to Zoom fatigue later. 

Key Findings

1

One-third (31%) of employees changed jobs in the past two years, and of those that didn’t, 25% are actively seeking a new opportunity in 2022

2

93% of employees whose onboarding was done remotely felt supported

3

The top policies that would be most likely to cause employees to not accept a job offer are not allowing for flexible hours (37%), requiring employees to work in the office full-time (34%), and not allowing for flexible working location (34%)

4

Almost two-thirds (63%) of employees said their employers never required them to come to the office full-time during the pandemic

5

The top work benefits that would be most appealing in a prospective employer are flexible working hours (42%), a 4-day work week (39%), flexible working location (30%), and unlimited holiday (30%)

6

47% of employees believe proximity bias exists in the workplace

7

69% of employees are worried that their employer will not adapt their workplaces, policies, or in-office requirements for hybrid work

8

Many employees face issues when it comes to online meetings - the most common being: unsure whether to interrupt someone who’s speaking (82%), audio echo/distortion (77%), finding it difficult to be part of or contribute to the conversation (75%), not being able to hear everyone (74%), feeling disengaged (73%), and not being able to see people's faces and therefore missing visual cues (73%)

9

77% of employees who are currently working remotely or in a hybrid way stated that they would feel more comfortable returning to the office if policies were implemented such as certified frequent cleaning/more hand sanitizer stations (30%), mandated vaccinations for all employees (22%), and more

10

34% of office workers think that the metaverse could improve flexible and hybrid working in the future

Section 1

Welcome to the modern way of working

The 9-to-5 is all but dead in today’s working world. The ‘new’ normal (or the ‘next’ normal, as we like to call it) is where flexible work is embraced by all - employers and employees - and the choice of when, where, and how employees work is a collaborative decision between employer and employee. 

Nearly one in three (31%) employees changed jobs in the past two years with 25% of those that didn’t, are actively seeking a new opportunity in 2022. Their reason? 42% want a better career opportunity, while 34% want better work/life balance, and 30% aim to lower their stress.

Before accepting - or even considering - a new role, many workers are ensuring that hybrid and flexible work is an option. The top policies that would be most likely to cause them to not accept an offer are; not allowing for flexible hours (37%) or flexible working location (34%). It may come as no surprise that women rank flexibility higher on their must-haves list than men, with 45% of women saying they would choose to stay with their current employer if they offered flexible hours.

Employees are demanding flexibility and without it, they won’t keep (or take) the job - it’s that simple.

Employers no longer hold the upper hand.

Section 2

Hybrid can be complicated

The shift to this more modern way of work happened quickly, and because of this, many are still trying to work out how hybrid work, well… works. It’s not as easy as requiring a Zoom link for every meeting or allowing employees to work from home some of the time. 

Hybrid work is not by happenstance and requires employers to take a deep look at their current policies, employee training, office tech, and their company culture to adjust for a more physically-scattered team. And with 69% of employees worrying that their employer will take workplace actions they don't readily agree with when it comes to hybrid working, employers need to be intentional, fair, and transparent when making these decisions. 

One area of focus is how to bring remote employees into the workplace - not physically, but virtually and culturally. 47% of employees are concerned that working remotely will mean they have less of a say at work and will miss out on growth opportunities. How do employers go about ensuring that remote employees feel included, aren’t experiencing burnout, or aren’t overlooked due to proximity bias

It’s easier said than done - especially when one in two (54%) employees say they are more likely to ask the opinion or engage with those they physically work with over those that are remote.

One place to start is meetings. By creating an equalized experience for every attendee, meetings can be a safe place for remote employees to be seen and heard. That said, this won’t just happen overnight, it will take the right kind of inclusive tech to get you there.

Hybrid work has exposed some room for improvement within the workplace.

Section 3

Managing in a hybrid environment

Having a strong management structure within an organization is critical to the success of any business. No matter what level of contribution your employees make, it’s important that they feel supported by management in their efforts - because we know that engaged employees are happy employees.

But in a hybrid or remote environment, oftentimes managers and employees aren’t in the same place physically. This can make building or maintaining a relationship between them challenging - especially when 59% of managers (and 62% of executives) are more likely to ask the opinion or engage with those they physically work with over those that are remote.

If employers want managers to successfully collaborate and support employees - and address and eliminate proximity bias - they need to provide effective training for them to have meaningful interactions. 

Same goes for employees. A remote employee may need to be more proactive and talk to their manager and others about the work they are completing on a regular basis. This is something in-office employees may not have to do as much. Productivity can be perceived differently when working remotely versus in-office.

The manager/employee relationship needs to be strengthened.

Section 4

Workspaces and workplaces need to evolve

One of the main lessons we learnt from these past two years is that the workplace will always evolve - pandemic or not. The good news: we can be prepared.

Many companies are looking to build more modern and inclusive workplaces that help employees thrive. While we can’t predict the future, there are conversations happening that may hint where work is headed. A hot topic on everyone’s mind is the metaverse, but who’s actually buying in?

Leadership. Over 35% of C-level, VP, and Director level managers believe the metaverse could be the next big disruptor in the workplace, but the metaverse won’t happen overnight. Organisations need to start thinking about how work is changing and how they can evolve today. Leveling up video conferencing tools can be a strong first step, with one in three (32%) employees saying there was room for video conferencing improvement.

The reality of today’s workplace is that some workers are unwilling or uncomfortable with returning to the office, and for many others, flexibility is now essential. For full-time remote workers specifically, 14% said they are reluctant to return to the office at all. But if leadership is open to new collaborative and immersive tech, the office can become a space for collaboration, team meetings, company all-hands, and more, and individual work can be saved for home spaces. There is a world in which our workspaces are optimized for our workforces.

What’s next in work - we’ll soon find out.

Appendix

Background + Demographics

Owl Labs surveyed 2,000 full-time workers in the United Kingdom. This survey data was collected in February 2022.

Conclusion

Conclusion

We know now that hybrid work works for UK employees and it doesn’t mean the office is dead or that productivity is stalled. It just means that we need to reimagine the ways in which we collaborate with coworkers in and out of the office.

With the right policies and tech, employers can overcome some of the challenges posed by hybrid work - teams can collaborate more effectively, managers and employees can build stronger relationships, and productivity can improve, without question.

Thanks for taking the time to read our report. We hope you found it insightful and useful.

Reach out to press@owllabs.com with any press inquiries and questions.

Owl Labs is a collaborative tech company revolutionizing how the world communicates, through its inclusive and immersive video experiences. Built for modern businesses, Owl Labs is dedicated to empowering hybrid and remote organizations with its award-winning technology and robust product suite. The company’s flagship product, the Meeting Owl, features a wifi-enabled, 360-degree camera, microphone, and speaker with Owl Labs’ proprietary AI technology, that automatically focuses on the speaker using audio and visual cues. In 2020, the Meeting Owl Pro was honored as one of TIME’s 100 Best Innovations. Owl Labs continues to champion the hybrid work conversation with its annual State of Remote Work reports. To learn more about Owl Labs and to join the work and learn from anywhere movement, visit www.uk-shop.owllabs.com

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