When employers sent workers home during the early days of the pandemic, most planned an eventual return to the office. But two-plus years later, it’s clear that the way we work has changed forever.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to many employers is the popularity of hybrid work. Recent surveys have shown that many workers prefer it even to full-time remote jobs. But making these schedules effective for engagement, collaboration and productivity can be a challenge for coworkers, teams and companies. To get it right, it’s essential to understand the benefits of hybrid work–and what employees want and need from the new normal.
The State of The Hybrid Workplace
According to a recent Gallup poll, about 30 million U.S. workers, equalling half the full-time workforce, have jobs that are compatible with remote work. Before the pandemic, only about 8 percent worked entirely from home, while an additional 32 percent had hybrid work schedules, meaning that they telecommuted part of the time. That changed rapidly: 70 percent of employees were working from home full-time in May 2020.
By early 2022, the remote work landscape had shifted: 39 percent were still working entirely from home, while 42 percent had a hybrid work schedule. Respondents told Gallup that they expected that setup to continue, with about 53 percent saying that they anticipated working remotely part of the time in the future.
What Employees Want and Need by Generation
Hybrid work is popular across generations, according to a survey of 1,000 workers sponsored by IWG. But the different demographics have diverse priorities.
Boomers and Gen X
Older workers were most likely to say that cost savings was a factor in their preference for hybrid work: 68 percent of Baby Boomers and 63 percent of Gen X choose to skip the expense of the commute as a reason to work from home part-time. However, Boomers also felt that a few days per week in the office were beneficial to forming a strong relationship with coworkers–68 percent said that up to two days a week helped strengthen these ties.
Millennials were most likely to say that they’d look for another job if required to return to the office full-time: 53 of Millennial hybrid workers said they’d jump ship rather than go back to on-site work. They were also in favor of losing the daily commute, but unlike their older colleagues, their focus was on stress reduction rather than cost savings.
In contrast to their older colleagues, Gen Z workers were less likely to say that hybrid work had benefited their careers–only 50 percent said that their personal career development had improved due to working from home part-time, compared to 73 percent of Millennials. In other surveys, younger workers have expressed a strong interest in training, the opportunity to learn from their colleagues and DEI.
Strategies for Hybrid Work Success
Are you pondering a hybrid work schedule for your employees? Start by understanding their needs.
Employees who prefer hybrid work want control over their schedules. In the IWG survey, 70 percent of respondents said that the ability to choose whether to work in the office or remotely was an important benefit. A third said that their ideal flexible working situation involved being able to choose when to work from home.
Younger workers are tired of online training, according to a survey from the National Society of High School Scholars. Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they wanted in-person training from their employers, while only 13 percent preferred online training.
Career education was especially important to Gen Z, per the survey: 67 percent of respondents wanted to work for employers that “enable them to learn skills to advance their careers.” Younger workers also wanted opportunities for advancement and promotion.
Mentorship and Coaching
Belonging is even more important than pay to the youngest generation of workers, according to a Cognizant survey. But it can be difficult to connect in a hybrid work environment, especially if workers can choose their in-office days.
Employees who prefer hybrid work want control over their schedules. In the IWG survey, 70 percent of respondents said that the ability to choose whether to work in the office or remotely was an important benefit.
Mentorship can be a key tool for fostering these crucial ties. Mentor programs promote communication, build professional relationships and improve collaboration. These programs are also a way to create a culture of belonging that allows diverse talent to thrive and contribute in the hybrid environment.