Most US firms are yet to match their culture to the demands of flexible working

most employers have not adapted their working culture and practices  to support the shift to flexible workingA survey of 900 leaders in HR, real estate, IT, and product roles at US based firms suggests that most employers have not adapted their working culture and practices  to support the shift to flexible working. In addition, according to The 2024 Workplace Flexibility Trends Report from TechSmith Corporation in partnership with workplace research firm Global Workplace Analytics and Caryatid Workplace Consultancy three quarters of workers have yet to receive any training for the rise of flexible working arrangements.

Just five years ago, less than 5 percent of US employees had the option to work remotely on a regular basis. Today, the report claims 58 percent now have that option at least some of the time. But while a majority of employers have embraced a change in “where” people work, many have not adopted the new practices they need to do it well. Nearly 3 out of 4 respondents indicated their employer has not trained its managers to lead a distributed team, established team or meeting norms, or adopted best practices to support working across distances.

“The pandemic forced the majority of organisations into hybrid work practically overnight, with no time to consider how to support new practices,” said Wendy Hamilton, CEO of TechSmith. “Unfortunately, some businesses are reverting back to in-office because they haven’t committed to meeting the needs of a flexible workforce. Instead, organisations need to redesign meeting protocols, tech stacks, and collaboration approaches. Returning to office full-time instead of investing in flexibility will hurt productivity, recruiting and employee engagement.”

“Rather than fretting over whether their people should work in an office, remotely, or some combination of the two, organisations should be asking themselves, ‘How can we empower our people to do their best work wherever they do it?’” said Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics.

Other key takeaways from the report related to work and collaboration include:

  • Real-time communication outpaces asynchronous collaboration 55 percent to 45 percent—but the majority want more asynchronous alternatives: Despite real-time communication slightly edging out asynchronous communication, nearly 70 percent of employees believe email could replace over a quarter of their meetings. Many respondents also believe video and images could enhance asynchronous communication with nearly seven in 10 respondents using video messaging sometimes or often in workplace communication and another 22 percent interested in trying it. Emails containing images or videos are favoured nearly 50 percent over plain text.
  • In-office workers face more interruptions than their hybrid counterparts with reduced productivity: Compared to hybrid employees, in-office workers are nearly twice as likely to be interrupted more than 25 times a day (83 percent higher), and more than three times more likely than full-remote workers. Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) indicated that unwanted interruptions more than six times a day reduced their productivity or increased their stress.
  • Respondents consider ad hoc and unplanned meetings to be the lowest value meeting by far at 7 percent: In comparison, decision-making meetings were considered the highest value of any meeting type by only 24 percent of respondents. Meetings related to project feedback (18 percent), training (18 percent) brainstorming sessions (17 percent), and status updates (16 percent) followed closely behind.
  • Generation and level in the organisation greatly influence flexible working: Managers (44 percent) are more tethered to an office than senior leaders or individual contributors (less than 27 percent). Baby Boomers have far more flexibility than Gen Z in “where” (74 percent compared to 63 percent) and “when” (49 percent compared to 30 percent) they work.
  • Fully-remote is increasingly becoming a small business luxury: The smallest companies, between one and nine employees, are far more likely to allow full remote (23 percent) compared to mid-sized (4 percent) and large companies (9 percent).
  • In-office employees experience significantly less flexibility around working hours than hybrid workers: Hybrid workers have nearly four times more access to flexibility around core working hours (71 percent compared to 18 percent), greater than three times more access to flexibility in the days they work (70 percent compared to 21 percent), and over 70 percent more access to full-choice in when they work when compared to completely in-office employees.