It’s time to move past the “remote versus office” debate, according to the findings of a recent pulse survey from Future Forum of more than 10,000 knowledge workers.
Conducted in November of 2021 and canvassing a global group that included members of executive, senior, middle and junior management, as well as senior staff and skilled office employees, the survey found that less than one-third of knowledge workers are working from the office every day. Meanwhile, the percentage of people working in hybrid arrangements increased to 58% from 46% in a similar May 2021 survey, as the share of workers who said their teams work exclusively either from home or from the office declined sharply.
The survey also revealed that the vast majority of global knowledge workers now expect to have flexibility in both where and when they work. Seventy-eight percent of all survey respondents said they wanted location flexibility, while 95% wanted schedule flexibility. Future Forum notes that executives who are concerned about the Great Resignation should take note that among their employees, requests for more flexibility are not empty threats, with 72% of workers who are dissatisfied with their current level of flexibility at work saying they are likely to look for a new job in the next year, compared with just 58% of total respondents.
The survey also notes a growing concern that “proximity bias” may lead to inequities between remote and in-office employees – a trend that could entrench structural inequities along racial and gender lines. In the U.S., for example, white knowledge workers are spending the most time in the office by a significant margin – as great as 17 percentage points. Further, 84% of men work in the office all or some of the time, compared to 79% of women. The home-office divide also breaks down along executive versus non-executive employees, with 42% of executives reporting they work from the office three to four days a week compared to just 30% of non-executives. And 75% of executives currently working fully remotely report they would prefer to work from the office three or more days a week, as compared to 37% of non-executives.
As such, Future Forum found that proximity bias is now executives’ top concern with respect to flexible work, with 41% of executives citing the potential for inequities to develop between remote and in-office employees as their biggest concern – up from 33% the previous quarter.