In the ongoing war for talent, the power balance has tipped firmly in favour of employees, who are more willing than ever to vote with their feet if employers refuse to embrace new ways of working.
Employee expectations have shifted significantly in recent years, with the ability to work flexibly becoming a top priority. In fact, a survey of more than 6,100 professionals suggests employees would choose freedom and flexibility over progressing their career within their company, with 71% of respondents saying they would pass up a promotion in return for being able to work from anywhere, at any time.
The survey was conducted by IT company Ivanti, which canvassed 4,510 office workers and 1,609 IT professionals in the US, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Sweden and Australia to understand attitudes toward remote work, points of disagreements among demographics, and the varying experiences of remote working so far.
It found that 87% of employees don't want to work from the office full-time, and a strong desire for 'hybrid' arrangements that combine working from an on-site workplace and working from another location – at home or otherwise. Companies that do insist on a full-time return to the office could face resignations: nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents say they'd quit their job if they were forced to do so.
There are many good arguments for allowing employees to take more control over their working habits – not least the fact that research consistently shows that workers who are given flexibility report higher rates of job satisfaction, engagement, motivation and productivity, and are less stressed.
Other benefits of flexible working cited by respondents to Ivanti's survey is a better work-life balance and the money and time savings reaped by not having to commute so often.
The report notes that many employees had already relocated out of major cities and commuter hubs during the pandemic, which could make it even more difficult to convince them to come back – particularly when there are plentiful, well-paid jobs out there that do offer remote working.
In Spain, for example, 81% of office workers have relocated temporarily or permanently, Ivanti found. When asked what they would do if their boss asked them to come back to the office full-time, 24% said they would look for another job.
The workforce has already seen significant shifts in recent years. According to Ivanti, the number of digital nomads from the US has more than tripled from 4.8 million in 2018 to 15.5 million in 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to much soul searching by work-weary employers, prompting large numbers of resignations and intense demand for tech and IT professionals among companies seeking to shore up their infrastructure, cybersecurity and digital platforms.
Nearly a quarter (24%) of employees have quit their jobs in the past year, Ivanti found, while 28% of survey respondents said they were planning to change jobs in the next six months.
Implementing a hybrid-working strategy will be crucial to attracting and retaining talent in the months ahead, with the demand for tech workers showing no sign of easing and tech workers themselves showing no indication that they will yield to bosses' return-to-office mandates.
That's not to say that a shift to hybrid will be without its issues – there are myriad IT, security, logistics and personnel issues that will need to be addressed, and there won't be a one-size-fits-all solution.
However, those employers that do take on the challenge will reap rewards in the form of higher motivation, increased engagement and performance, while also keeping hold of their top performers.
"Creating an everywhere workplace where employees can thrive is one of the biggest challenges business leaders and IT teams face today," said Jeff Abbot, CEO at Ivanti.
"Creating a great place to work isn't about a ping pong table or fully stocked breakroom anymore; employees need the right tools to be their most productive and secure no matter where they work."