Work globally has shifted dramatically since 2020. What was once completed primarily in the office is now completed in a variety of locations - in-office, coworking spaces or at home - as flexibility reigns supreme. Hybrid work is what employees want with 81% of workers globally preferring to work in a hybrid or remote format.
Employees globally are embracing flexible work - and they want more of it. This year’s data has shown that employees feel more productive, balanced, and loyal to their companies when they have flexibility. Many employees will even make sacrifices for flexibility. In fact, 44% would give up 10% or more of their salary for flexible working hours, 1 in 4 (25%) would give up 15% or more for flexibility in their working location, and 6% would quit their job if they were no longer able to work remotely or hybrid.
The markets we surveyed consist of the US, UK, France, Germany, Nordics (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland) and the Netherlands. There were many similarities between what employees want and manager challenges globally, but also some points in which they differed.
Read on to uncover where the global workplace stands today, and dive into the types of workplaces that employees want and expect from their employers.
66% of respondents believe that working from home should be a legal right*
Over 1 in 2 workers (54%) said that they believe their company is requiring them to work from the office because of traditional work expectations
Almost 1 in 3 (30%) employees have at least one additional job or “side hustle”
On average, hybrid employees globally go into the office 2 days a week (36%) or 3 days a week (34%)
54% of workers are currently working from the office full-time, but only 19% want to be
45% of employees globally think that their employer is unlikely to change their remote or hybrid policy in the next year
17% of employees changed companies in 2023
40% of workers said that their level of work-related stress had increased since last year
Not allowing for flexible working hours (40%) is the top reason that would prevent a worker from accepting a job offer
If hybrid workers were required to be in the office full-time, 35% would go in but start looking for a new job, and 6% would quit
39% of hybrid workers globally admit that they go to the office for a few hours to show their face and then go home
81% of employees reported they have lost meeting time in their hybrid meetings due to technical difficulties
1 in 2 (50%) workers would take a pay cut (5% or more) to wear whatever clothing they wanted
58% of managers believe that their hybrid and remote working employees are missing out on impromptu or in-formal feedback and development opportunities
Only 41% of hybrid and remote employees believe that they are missing out on impromptu or non-formal feedback
The global state of affairs
Who is requiring employees back to the office, and who is more in support of hybrid and remote work? Some companies have forced return-to-office mandates and then switched their position after employee pushback. Other companies have implemented work-from-anywhere policies and seen reduced turnover. Some have tested the 4-day work week and saw an increase in productivity.
Policies and requirements can change so swiftly that it can be challenging to keep up. Nearly every day, it feels like a new term is introduced - from quiet quitting to office peacocking. It can feel impossible to follow the latest trends or clearly understand the benefits and challenges of flexible work (and how to effectively implement it).
In this year’s research, we came across some interesting trends. One is the concept of polyworking, describing when workers have two or more jobs. Our report shows that nearly 1 in 3 employees (30%) globally have at least one additional job or “side hustle” outside of their main full-time job, with an additional 37% saying they currently do not but would like one. Think it’s just a remote thing? Not exactly. Full-time office workers (59%) are more likely to have one additional job than hybrid or remote workers (41%).
Another new trend is “coffee badging” - the act of going into the office to “show face” for a few hours and then leaving - which is more popular than one might think. More than 1 in 3 (39%) hybrid workers have “coffee badged” with an additional 11% saying they haven’t but would like to try.
The data also shows that 2023 became the year that employees went back to the office. Surprisingly - or maybe not - 54% of this year’s global respondents say they are in the office full-time, however, only 19% want to be. In Europe, we learned that 66% of employees believe that working from home should be a legal right.
Even though many employees returned to the office, their commitment to flexibility showed itself once again. Compensation is always a leading factor when it comes to retention and talent prospecting, however employees are willing to take pay cuts for flexibility. Almost 1 in 4 (24%) would take a 15% or more pay cut to work a 4-day work week, and 22% would take the same pay cut for a fully remote working location. Almost 1 in 10 workers (8%) said they would take a 20% or more salary decrease to have flexible working hours.
Here’s the current lay of the (working) land and the trends to know:
of European respondents believe that working from home should be a legal right - this is especially true for workers in France (72%) and the Netherlands (70%)
How often are hybrid employees going into the office? On average, hybrid employees globally work from the office:
Workers’ preferred style vs. what their employer is mandating
Regions with the highest return to office mandates:
Regions with the least full-time remote workers:
Regions with the highest percentage of employees who prefer full-time remote work:
Regions that have the most hybrid work:
1 in 3 employees globally have additional jobs or a “side hustle”:
The markets where workers are the most likely to have at least one additional job:
of hybrid workers go to the office for just a few hours to show their face (i.e., "coffee badging") - this increases to 58% in the US
Work expectations: Employers vs Employees
We know that company work mandates do not currently match the way in which employees want to work. We delved into what happens when these two expectations aren’t aligned, and 1 in 3 (35%) said they would start to look for a new job, with 6% saying they would quit. And 16% of hybrid and remote workers surveyed would expect a pay increase to make up for the additional costs if they were no longer able to work from home, rising to 29% in the US.
A good place to start is understanding what matters most to employees. Leading is compensation (84%) but followed very closely is a supportive manager (80%), pay equity (78%) and flexible working hours (77%). The desire for flexible working hours increases to 80% in France. Next is good technology at 76%, which rises to 83% for US workers.
What’s keeping employees happy at their jobs, or making them look elsewhere? Almost 1 in 5 (17%) global workers changed jobs in 2023, and this was more common with full-time office workers (19%) than hybrid or remote workers (14%). There was less turnover in the Netherlands (13%) and France (10%) with the highest turnover occurring in the US at 23%. 1 in 4 workers globally (26%) have not changed jobs but are actively seeking a new opportunity.
The reasons they changed jobs - or are actively seeking something new - have remained pretty consistent year over year. This year, the top reasons are for better compensation (43%), better work/life balance (36%) and for a better career opportunity (36%). We also learned what would cause workers not to accept a new job offer, and (maybe unsurprisingly) the top reasons were: not allowing for flexible working hours (40%), requiring employees to be in the office full-time (35%), and not allowing for a flexible working location (34%). Job seekers highly value having autonomy over where and when they work - so companies offering flexible working hours (among other things) will come out on top.
Managing teams today - especially those new to the workforce and new to working in a hybrid format - poses its own unique challenges. More than 1 in 2 (58%) managers said that they feel that their team members are missing out on impromptu or in-formal feedback opportunities. However, only 41% of remote and hybrid workers agree.
What would hybrid/remote workers do if their employer required them to be in the office full-time without the option of hybrid work?
of hybrid/remote workers would go to the office full-time but start looking for another job that offered hybrid work - increasing in the Nordics (44%) and the Netherlands (40%)
of hybrid/remote workers would go to the office full-time but be unhappy and less productive - Increasing in both France (34%) and Germany (34%)
of hybrid/remote workers would go to the office full-time and not mind
of hybrid/remote workers would quit - increasing in France (10%)
Good technology may be more important than you realize with 76% of respondents globally saying this was important to them when working. Here are some of the other important factors - both at a global level and for the US and France where these factors were ranked higher than every other market:
A supportive manager
The ability to work flexible hours
Which workers care the most about a supportive manager? It is most important in France (85%) and the US (85%).
The three main drivers for global workers to seek a new job opportunity were:
The top three policies that would prevent global workers from accepting job offers:
Productivity is always a top concern when it comes to employers.
A breakdown of how managers feel about productivity:
So what have employers done to implement more effective hybrid work? The top 5 things that employers have done in 2023 are:
Hybrid benefits + challenges
Hybrid work is nuanced and can be challenging when not executed intentionally. When hybrid employees were asked why they think their company requires them to be in-office, 1 in 2 (54%) said because of traditional work expectations. Clearly many employees are either unconvinced or uncertain when it comes to being required to be in-office.
Though some employees are skeptical about the rationale of why they have to be in the office, it’s important to note that the story isn’t that all employees are reluctant to go to the office, they just think the office works better for some tasks than others. 94% of global workers said they can be convinced to come to the office, and oftentimes that depends on the type of work they are looking to complete.
The office serves an important purpose because some tasks are more effective when we can collaborate IRL (in-real-life). The office shouldn’t be a requirement but a flexible arrangement where employees can decide where they work best: say hello (again) to task-based hybrid work.
Over 1 in 2 (54%) hybrid workers say the office works best for meeting new people, 49% for managing others, and 45% prefer it for collaborating. They shouldn’t have to choose between one or the other - if productivity remains the same or increased, employees should have autonomy on where they spend their time working.
Proximity bias has proved that it wasn’t simply a trending term. Proximity bias - the tendency of leadership to show favoritism or preferential treatment to employees that are close to them physically - is still quite prevalent today. 1 in 2 (49%) workers are concerned that managers view those in the office as harder working and more trustworthy than their remote counterparts, and 54% said they are more likely to ask the opinion of those they physically work with over their remote colleagues. Clearly, there is more work to do here.
In 2023, we have seen some companies doing their best to entice employees into the office instead of mandating it in a more “employee-choice” hybrid format. What matters most to hybrid employees when it comes to returning to the office? Hint: snacks do play a part. At the top of the list, companies that pay workers commuting costs, followed by free or subsidized food and beverages, and a shorter commute. Surprisingly - or not - 17% said they would be enticed to go to the office if they were able to wear whatever they wanted.
Top activities done while working from home:
Top activities done in the office:
Global stress levels:
To what extent do employees agree with these statements around proximity bias?
The main things that would entice employees (globally) to return to the office:
What size pay cut would global workers take for key benefits?
Workplace modernization + looking ahead
Traditional offices and its technology no longer meet today’s working needs. In fact, 50% of workers said they feel their employer uses too many communication platforms, with 21% saying it can be overwhelming. Innovative technology and strong collaboration platforms are crucial to the effectiveness of hybrid work.
In this year’s survey, 86% of workers globally said their meetings have at least one remote participant. This makes reliable and easy-to-use technology in the office essential. In 2023, most workers faced issues during online and hybrid meetings. Over 8 in 10 (81%) said they lost time due to technical difficulties and we learned that more than 3 in 4 employees (78%) reported not being able to hear everyone.
We’ve also learned that only 28% of companies have upgraded their meeting technology in the last year. Companies need to focus (or refocus) on their technology in order to maintain strong collaboration and productivity.
Now it’s time to share our predictions for the rest of the year and beyond. From generative AI to holograms, there is a lot on the horizon and it’s happening fast. So what has been implemented today and what will be adopted in the (near) future?
More than 1 in 3 (36%) workers said their employers adopted AI technology to replace or augment employees’ roles this year. However, employees don’t seem to be overly concerned about the use of generative AI (like ChatGPT) with 35% saying it will help them do their job more effectively and faster. On the other hand, 1 in 5 (22%) feel that it would compete with their job and 21% are concerned it will cause ethical issues in their workplace.
When it comes to future technologies that employees want their employers to adopt in the next two years, AI, or an AI assistant (32%) is at the top of the list and improved video conferencing technologies are a close second at 30%.
Every meeting type has its challenges. Here are the top hybrid meeting challenges:
What effect do workers think generative AI, like ChatGPT, will have on their jobs in the next 5 years?
What technologies would employees like to see in the workplace in the next 2 years?
As the data has shown, hybrid working has many benefits and globally is the preferred way to work. That doesn’t mean that hybrid work doesn’t come with its own challenges, but if companies listen to their employees and hire based on experience rather than proximity to the office, they just may see increased productivity and more loyal employees.
There is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but many ways to execute hybrid working well. Successful hybrid work takes intention, thoughtfulness and 360-communication that includes the ability to pivot or change policies when they aren’t quite working.
We hope you enjoyed our latest edition of Owl Labs’ State of Hybrid Work. We look forward to continuing to bring you this research each year as your trusted, go-to data source.
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Background + Demographics
Owl Labs surveyed over 12,000 full-time workers total, surveying 2,000 workers each in the following regions: United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Nordics (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark) and the Netherlands, ages 18+, at companies with 2+ employees. This survey data was collected in June 2023 in partnership with the research consultancy, Vitreous World.
Manager of employees
Years at company
About Owl Labs
Owl Labs is the first company to build AI-powered, 360-degree video conferencing solutions for hybrid organisations. Its suite of products makes meetings more inclusive and collaborative by levelling the playing field between remote and in-room participants. The company’s flagship product, the Meeting Owl 3®, is the first WiFi-enabled, 360-degree camera, microphone and speaker that automatically zooms in on whoever’s speaking. Owl Labs has raised $47 million in funding and is based in Boston, with remote and hybrid employees all over the world. To learn more, visit owllabs.eu.
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