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Is flexible working now more important than salary expectations?

Flexible working has overtaken salary as the top benefit to employees (59%), highlighting that flexibility and autonomy over the working day is now more important than financial reward for most workers. This is according to a new report from Jabra; the  Jabra Hybrid Ways of Working 2021 Global Report carried out amongst 5,000 knowledge workers in five countries worldwide, including the UK.

The report also found that nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) believe that in the future having an office space will be considered an employee benefit as opposed to a mandatory way of working. 71% of the global workforce also see the office as a social amenity and place to collaborate, with independent working happening off-site. This shift in attitude towards flexible working and office space suggests that employers need to rethink their benefits packages and ensure that they are appropriate for post-pandemic working life.

Leaders have a false sense of confidence in hybrid working

The dominant reasons for why people want to return to the office are team connectivity, motivation and equipment challenges. Yet companies that did a poor job transitioning staff to remote working during the pandemic or concerns about career development might be the real drivers. Employees are more likely to request more days working in the office – 3 days or more a week – if their company did not do a good job transitioning to remote work during the pandemic, with 17% wanting to be in the office full-time, compared to 14% for those who had a good experience with the remote work transition.

Three in four employees are concerned about hybrid working, largely due to poor communication practices and an unequal playing field, and only 20% think their organisation is very prepared for hybrid, with UK employees feeling slightly more confident at 25%. More than half (52%) of the respondents also admitted that they would prefer to work from home but are concerned their career would suffer long-term.

There is also a clear divide between the C-suite and other employees when it comes to preparedness for hybrid working. Employees were 11% more likely than the C-Suite to say that their organisations were not at all prepared for the shift to hybrid. Only 53% of employees thought that their organisation was prepared for hybrid working, compared to 74% of C-suite leaders.

Overcoming hurdles 

To create a successful hybrid working model, business leaders need to move away from formal policies, which lack the human element. Instead, they should focus on creating high-trust environments that set clear principles and guidelines but at the same time, give autonomy to employees.

For example, most employees want managers to allow team members to set their own schedule (65%), instead of holding standard 9 AM to 5 PM working hours (35%). A similar percentage would prefer that management allows team members to come into the office when they need to, and work from home when they need to (61%), over having predetermined ‘in office’ and ‘at home’ days each week for the team (39%). In the UK we are more convinced (78%) than the other markets (73%) that a hybrid work model is more inclusive and will make employees feel more valued than a traditional 9-to-5 office structure.

Technology critical to the war on talent 

Moving beyond a hybrid working model, where employees have the choice between working from home or in an office, 75% want to be able to work from anywhere in the future. As a result, the right technology is more important than fancy offices in prime locations when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Nine out of ten UK knowledge workers believe that technology is critical to a ‘work from anywhere’ future. More than half of employees want personal technology to take with them wherever they wish to work, while almost three in four would prefer companies to select and provide that technology to make the hybrid experience equal.

Over eight in ten (84%) employees agree that “Technology can help all employees have equal access to opportunities at work,” and they’d “rather work for a company that invests in technology to better connect the workforce in a hybrid working future” (80%). Almost half (46%) of the UK respondents also state that the right tech helps people feel included and represented in meetings. Collaboration technology needs to adapt to allow people to turn any space into a workspace – previous technology designed for the odd day ‘remote working’ is no longer fit for purpose.

Holger Reisinger, SVP at Jabra, said: “The world of work is going through a significant change, and we’re at a pivotal moment. While companies were initially thrust into remote working with little to no time to prepare, the pandemic will have a permanent impact on working structures. As companies look to evolve their hybrid working strategies, the research shows that by continuing to invest in the right technology and giving employees autonomy over the working day, organisations can deliver a better working experience for employees. The companies that get it right will be the ones who don’t just listen to what employees want, but also understand why they want it.”

Five areas of consideration for businesses: 

1. Rather than mandating a return to the office, consider enabling people to work from anywhere by providing employees with the technology to achieve this.

2. With 75% of knowledge workers wanting to work from wherever they are in the future and valuing flexibility over salary, it might be wise to rethink benefit structures to remain competitive and keep attracting top talent.

3. Leadership should consider what types of tasks and reasons they want employees in the office for. They should then ensure the environment is adapted to meet these needs.

4. Companies that invest in the right formats for bringing people together, and technology to keep them connected from wherever will benefit more than those who invest primarily in traditional physical resources.

5. Leaders should lead by example to show hybrid working best practices. They need to demonstrate to teams that however they choose to work, it won’t disadvantage them.

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