In recent years, one of the major changes in work culture has been the growth of the distributed workforce.
Enabled by the rise of technology, companies all over the world are increasingly allowing – and sometimes actively encouraging – remote working or other flexible arrangements.
We shed light on where this trend has come from and, using our data, explore the expectations and benefits for both employer and employee.
What young professionals expect
Younger professionals report a broader acceptance of remote working in their companies.
Among 16-24 year-old workers, 80% say that remote working is permitted.
Similarly high rates exist among 25-34 year-olds, but rates begin to decline as workers get older. Among 55-64 year-olds, 66% report their workplace permits remote working.
Additionally, flexible workplace culture seems to be the hallmark of younger, smaller companies.
Among companies that were founded less than 11 years ago, remote working is accepted generally by over 82%, and accepted widely by about one-third.
These rates decline for more established companies, with a significant decline among companies that have been around for more than twenty years. While there is an interplay here, with younger companies often attracting younger workers, an additional factor is present: younger workers demand more work-life balance.
As they’ve come of age and entered the workforce during the years of rapid workplace transformation, flexibility is now part of the package for many young professionals.
Millennials, having entered the workforce en masse in the last 15 years, have driven much of this change.
According to Deloitte’s Millennial Survey, a good work/life balance is the most important factors for young professionals evaluating job opportunities.
Following this are (2) opportunities to progress and (3) workplace flexibility (i.e. remote working, flexible working). This is indicative that for younger generations, a balance of lifestyle benefits in the workplace often outweigh other more traditional markers of what constitutes a “good” prospective job.
And they may have the right idea. While there are challenges, especially from the perspective of employers, the benefits of remote working and other flexible practices are evident.
Productivity gets a boost
Among global professionals, remote working is often associated with better personal outcomes.
Those who work for employers that permit remote working are more inclined to rate their companies as “good” or “excellent” for employee morale, communication, productivity, collaboration, and overall culture.
What’s more, other research focusing on workplace practices and satisfaction reinforces these results.
A Gallup poll in 2017 found that an optimal balance for productivity exists, and it leans toward more frequent remote working.
Based on the poll’s findings, American professionals who spent between 60-80% of their time working remotely reported being the most engaged with their work.
Physical vs. psychological constraints
Greater levels of productivity as associated with a longer and harder working day, however.
The likelihood of doing things like working late, working overtime, and answering emails or messages outside of office hours directly increases as workplace tolerance toward remote working increases.
Where working remotely is broadly permitted, employees are more likely to work late at least once a week (55%) vs. where it’s permitted with limitations (48%) and where it’s not permitted at all (40%).
The root of this drive to work longer, take on more projects, and maintain constant communication when working remotely is not entirely clear.
A likely factor at play, however, is the pressure to emphasize one’s commitment to the job when a visible, physical presence means that this is no longer obvious to colleagues and management.
While free from limitations of a traditional work environment, the constraints of remote workers take on a more psychological nature.
4 Key takeaways for business leaders
Flexibility is now part of the package for many young professionals.
For millennials especially, a good work/life balance is the most important factor when looking for a job. And remote working pays a key role in achieving this.
Executive management is more likely to have flexibility included in their day-to-day working.
The suggestion here is that seniority is a key differentiator in remote working. But companies should focus on offering less senior staff the opportunity for remote working if they want to attract the best talent.
Greater levels of productivity is linked with a longer and harder working day.
The good news for employers is that they can expect greater productivity from their employees through flexible working. Also, adopting the latest communication software will enable remote workers to stay in full contact.
“Good” or “excellent” employee ratings for morale, communication, productivity, collaboration, and overall culture are expected with remote working.
For employers, specifically HR teams, productivity and employee satisfaction are important areas of optimization, and our research suggests that remote working helps achieve both.
The evolution of the workplace
Our work culture is changing dramatically, and the growth of flexible working is only one thing to consider.
In the last couple of decades, the face of the modern ‘office’ has transformed, and altered our perception of what ‘working’ looks like.
Our research suggests that, at least for the employer, the benefits of remote working outweigh the cons - especially in terms of employee productivity.
But employers should have their employee’s best interests at heart, ensuring their remote working measures contribute to a healthy work/life balance.
GlobalWebIndex offers insight into evolving attitudes around flexible working, and its impact on today’s workforce.