Several years ago, Bill Gates predicted that as the competition for talent increases, “companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge.”
That prediction is turning out to be true. In a recent survey of 1,000+ U.S. office workers, we discovered a strong preference among professionals and job seekers for companies that allow people to “work remotely,” “work from home” and give employees the flexibility to move around the office.
That research forms the basis of Hana’s recent white paper, Forget Foosball: People Want a Better Place to Work, Not Play, where we found top talent finds the most fulfillment at the office by being productive — and having the resources and flexibility to be productive on their own terms.
For companies looking to optimize their office spaces and fine-tune their workplace benefit packages, here are two critical things to keep in mind when thinking about offering your workforce greater flexibility.
1. Flexibility means thinking outside the workstation.
In today’s work world, Wi-Fi and laptops mean people are no longer confined to working at their desk — and top talent is ready to take advantage of that flexibility.
In our survey, 64% of office say they’re more productive when they can move around to different settings. Employees also place value on choosing where they work within the office.
Some workplace designers have taken to creating “third spaces,” or places other than the desk, suited to different types of work an employee might come across in the course of a typical workday.
We discovered the real benefit for employees comes down to control. A majority of office workers tell us they feel more productive when they can control where they work in the office.
Moreover, 77% say they rely on their workplace environment to encourage their productivity — and 72% say they are more productive when they have less stimulus around their workplace.
The Role Between Office Environments & Employee ProductivitySource: Hana
Taken together, these stats tell a simple story: People want the ability to control where they work and the environment in which they work. If the area around their desk is too loud or they need a change of scenery, they value being able to move to a different part of the office to find the space they need.
“The popularity of third places is a recognition that one space type doesn’t necessarily fit the needs of people throughout the work day,” says CBRE’s Su-Zette Sparks. These are “intentionally more relaxed places.”
Companies that invest in spaces like these are seeing results with higher employee satisfaction and increased productivity, particularly among younger employees.
In our survey, Gen Z and Millennial workers voiced a strong interest in being able to work in different places in the office, pointing to social workspaces and private huddle rooms for smaller groups as ideal third places. Professionals across age groups also pointed to café spaces as good spaces to work away from the desk and break up their days.
In an open response, one professional told us “sometimes I need as quiet place by myself … [while] other times I need a place where I can interact and get ideas.”
2. Flexibility means making it easier for people to work remotely.
Technology has made it easier than ever to dial in and work on the road or at home — and professionals deeply value the flexibility to work remotely. In our survey, 70% of job seekers said the ability to work remotely is a must-have when considering a new job.
These employees aren’t just working from home. While 23% of professionals told us they have worked from home in the past year, 18% say they’ve worked in a coworking space — and 10% say they’ve worked in a public space like a café or library.
In a separate study, PwC found that 68% of professionals expect to be able to work flexible hours and work remotely as they needed to. And that’s a number that will undoubtedly continue to grow.
For companies, the demand for greater flexibility makes it important to give employees the ability to work remotely when they need to. This includes setting up policies that give people the flexibility to determine where and how they work.
It also involves giving employees the resources they need to work effectively outside the office. In particular, the employees we surveyed listed two tools as critically important: Chat applications like Slack and video conferencing solutions like Zoom.
But employers have some work to do in this area. Take video conferencing software as an example: Even though 62% of those surveyed told us it’s a critically important office tool, only three in 10 say they have access to it in the workplace.
Take this with you
In today’s job market, people have options when it comes to choosing where they work — and they’re more likely to choose companies that focus on offering greater flexibility to take control of how they work.
Dr. Alan Hedge, an ergonomics expert at Cornell University, put it best in a conversation with us, saying, “The combination of Wi-Fi networks and mobile technologies now allows you to work in multiple locations. What that means in a company is you have to think of your entire space as a workspace. You also have to think outside the workspace, too.”
This gives companies an opportunity to stand out by offering their employees greater flexibility in the office with innovative spaces — and great flexibility to work outside the office with the right policies and tools.
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.