Hybrid work is the new trend in flexible work scheduling. The goal? Bring team members back into the office for part of the week and allow remote work for the remaining days.

Sounds like a healthy compromise, right? The only issue is that executives and employees can’t agree on how it’s going.

Employees want flexibility, and many have grown accustomed to it while working remotely during the pandemic. Only 12% of employees want to spend four or more days in the office.

Leadership is suffering from productivity panic. According to a Mircosoft study, 85% of leaders lack confidence that hybrid and remote work policies are productive.

Is hybrid work here to stay? We believe it is, but let’s delve into why there’s a disconnect.

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Hybrid work: the new normal?

After years of fully remote work, leadership teams are ready to present their new shiny compromise: hybrid work. The only issue? They should have checked with their employees first.

Employees aren’t happy with the number of days that leadership expects them in the office, and leadership is suspicious that their teams aren’t productive at home. A well-intentioned compromise has become a lose-lose situation for both sides.

What does a typical hybrid schedule look like? 

According to a Gallup poll, hybrid employees’ schedules vary. Here’s what that breakdown looks like:

  • One-third are on-site one day per week
  • One-third are on-site two to three days per week
  • One-third are on-site four days per week

Gallup surveyed over 8,000 remote-capable employees in the U.S. to find this data. They then created a chart showing hybrid employees’ actual and preferred days in the office. Let’s take a look:

Gallup poll on the number of days worked on-site per week: current vs. preferred.

As you can see, employees and leadership can’t seem to agree on how often hybrid employees should come into the office. Lack of agreement on expectations creates a disconnect between employees and leadership. 

The executive-employee disconnect

Back in 2021, the Future Forum surveyed over 10,000 employees around the globe on hybrid work sentiment. They uncovered the executive-employee disconnect — a disagreement between employees and employers regarding returning to the office part-time.

Executives want to work in the office full time. And employees don’t.

Three-quarters of all executives reported they want to work from the office three to five days a week, compared with about one-third of employees.

What’s causing this disconnect is likely a mixture of insecurity, lack of trust, and productivity panic. About 40% of supervisors and managers expressed a lack of confidence in remote team management.

Employees and leadership have a mutual concern: subpar employee experience scores — which continue to slump. Wise leaders know that a positive employee experience is crucial to the health and success of a business, so this vital indicator is not to be overlooked.  

Businesses must consider employee perspectives when creating hybrid scheduling.

What do employees want?

Remote work was initially strange to many of us. But now, it’s what we’re used to. Our pets are accustomed to having us home every day. Our savings accounts are fatter now that we aren’t spending $18 on a subpar salad for lunch downtown five days a week.

Per Pew Research Center, 60% of workers want to work from home all or most of the time.

Remote work remains a top priority for job seekers. While interviewing candidates for clients, Carolyn Christie, CEO at Carolyn Hawkins Consulting, has found that job seekers consistently put remote work as their number one requirement.

Research shows that employees are happy working from home, and most don’t want it to end.

In a tight labor market, businesses must do what they can to retain talent and keep their employees happy. Still, many corporations call their teams back into the office without seeking their input. It’s clear that they have their own expectations too. 

What does the C-suite want? 

The verdict is in: employees want to remain remote or primarily remote. How do executives feel? Reportedly, they’re thrilled to be welcoming employees back to the office.

“I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to being together again,” said Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook told his employees in a memo outlining a new hybrid back-to-work plan.

Tim Cook isn’t alone in his excitement to turn his staff to the office. Comcast’s CEO Jeff Shell matched his tone in a memo to his team, “I hope everyone is feeling as energized as I am and that you are looking forward to seeing your colleagues in person again in the weeks ahead.” 

The resounding response? Crickets.

Most employees don’t match their bosses’ excitement for a mandatory return to work. Sure, some are happy to have a different place to work a few times a week, and many are eager to collaborate with their team.

But overall, the return-to-work memos have felt more like decrees — demands made by leadership teams that aren’t lining up with what employees want.

Most executives (66%) say they are creating post-pandemic remote work policies with little to no input from their team.

Are employees productive while working from home?

The main reason employers are concerned about remote work is productivity. While understandable, there are plenty of ways to know if remote employees are working. That’s a can of worms for another day, but we’ve tracked down some hard facts and statistics that are hard to disagree with. 

A University of Chicago study found that six in ten employees self-reported higher productivity when working remotely. 

On average, remote work productivity was over 7% higher than in-office productivity.

In fact, the same Microsoft report that showed leadership teams don’t trust remote employees found that the number of weekly meetings has increased by 153% for Microsoft Teams users since the start of the pandemic. While there isn’t a direct correlation between meetings and productivity, they present plenty of productivity pitfalls

More importantly, remote work decreases psychological and physical stress. Remote and hybrid work can create a healthier workforce and decrease burnout— which is known to reduce productivity

"A worldwide team never sleeps. We're always making progress somewhere, and there's always someone around, ready and able to help out."

Maarten Billemont
iOS Client Architect

Happy employees are more productive and bring in higher profits, so why infringe on your team’s flexibility? If you risk their happiness and hurt your bottom line, you’re only helping your competition.

It’s time to squash productivity panic: Remote and hybrid work isn’t going anywhere

If managers can overcome productivity panic, a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce could be our reality.

Returning to the old way of working, commuting for hours, and drinking stale coffee five times a week isn’t happening. But the compromise between remote and in-office work is a tricky balance — especially when employees and employers can’t agree on what works best. 

Finding the right balance of hybrid, remote, and in-office work will take time and require employee feedback, not just executive decisions from the C-suite. Accepting employee input increases productivity and, in turn, makes everyone happier.

Category: Workforce Management