There was a time when flexible work arrangements or taking the occasional work-from-home day was a luxury.
But what was once a generous workplace perk is now an expected benefit. In a recent survey of 1,000+ office workers, we found an overwhelming majority cite the ability to “work from home” and have “flexible work benefits” as top-line considerations when considering a new job.
That research fueled our recent white paper, Forget Foosball: People Want a Better Place to Work, Not Play, where we explored the top workplace perks and office environments people value most.
The results? People care more about having the workspaces, technology and basic amenities they need to work well — and they strongly value companies that give them the flexibility to control how and where they work.
Below, we’ll dive into what flexible work is, what the benefits are, and two ways companies are adopting greater flexibility in and outside the office.
At its most basic, flexible work means having the freedom to decide how, where and when work will be done.
In practice, this breaks down into a few broad categories:
Companies are increasingly offering some or all of these options to employees as technology increasingly makes it easier to work outside the office — and around the office, for that matter.
“Technology has made it easier than ever to dial in and work on the road or at home,” says Brian Harrington, Hana’s Chief Experience Officer, in an article for CBRE. Basic advances like Wi-Fi have transformed coffee shops into second offices for many (just walk into any Starbucks on a weekday for proof). And the rise of always-on email notifications (hello iOS and Android) alongside chat apps like Slack have also blurred the lines between work and life.
According to The Wall Street Journal, “Article after article reminds us that thanks to the internet and smartphones, everybody is available all the time.”
While that’s far more myth than reality, the increasingly always-on nature of work has led many to weave it into their broader lives and prioritize the flexibility to work their own way, on their own time and in whatever place is most conducive being productive.
And many prize the flexibility to work in the office when they need to and work remotely when they have to. Research shows that “80%-90% of U.S. employees would like to telework part time at minimum,” according to Inc. “Two or three days per week appears to be the right amount, allowing enough time for on-site collaborate work and off-site concentrative work.”
From being able to work from home when a child is sick to working remotely while traveling, the benefits of flexible work are unmistakable for professionals.
But the benefits are also clear for companies. Among those we surveyed, a majority said they were more likely to stay with an employer who offered flexible work privileges and cited clear benefits like higher productivity rates and greater fulfillment.
Our findings aren’t isolated. In a two-year long Stanford study, researchers found that:
Flexible work also speaks to flexible workspace designs, where employees have multiple workspaces within the office outside their typical desk.
And from café spaces to smaller meeting rooms, these flexible workspace designs are appealing to professionals. Among those we surveyed, 64% said they are more productive when they can work in different setting arounds the office.
We discovered this is in large part due to the desire to control their workspace environment. 77% of employees told us they rely on their workplace environment to encourage their productivity — and 72% said they appreciate being able to find a quiet space to work, if their typical workstation area becomes too noisy.
This increases among younger workers with a strong majority of Gen Z and Millennials pointing the importance of having different places to work within the office such as café spaces, social areas and private huddle rooms for smaller working teams.
Companies are taking note. “Because studies show employees are away from their desk as much as 60% of their workdays, Fortune 1000 companies worldwide are entirely redesigning their spaces,” Inc says.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, 40% more U.S. companies are now offering flexible work options to employees than they did five years ago. For professionals, this is introducing a greater degree of freedom in deciding how, where and when work gets done.
In our research, we found two big changes from this move to flexible work:
1. The office is becoming just one of many places for work.
While 23% of professionals in our survey reported working from home in the last year, 18% said they had spent time working in a coworking space — and 10% said they had turned to a public place like a coffee shop or library during their working hours.
The numbers rise among younger workers with 20% of Millennials saying they’ve worked in a coworking space over the past year in addition to their office — and 33% of Gen Z’ers saying the same.
2. Companies are adopting tools and technology for flexible work.
Companies need offer their employees tools and resources like these to make sure their employees can effectively work outside the office. We found that while companies are offering some key tools, they still have some work to do when it comes to getting the mix of technologies right.
Video conferencing is a good example of this. While 62% of the professionals we surveyed told us it’s a critically important office tool, only three in 10 say their employer offers it to them.
Professionals today have options when it comes to choosing how and where they work — and they’re demanding more flexibility and freedom to take control of their workday.
This, in part, is fueling the rise of flexible work benefits among companies as they fight to attract and retain talent. Between adopting remote work policies and offering a greater number of workspaces within the traditional office, companies are opening up new ways and places for professionals to control where and how they work.
Learn more about what amenities, perks, workplace environments and technology top talent wants in the office in Hana’s white paper, Forget Foosball: People Want a Better Place to Work, Not Play.
As the Content Strategist at Hana, my job involves digging deep into the present and future of flexible workspaces and coworking. When I'm not working my way through industry trends, you can find me working my way through a book or looking for the perfect taco stand in Austin, Texas.
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