Flexibility (Or Lack Thereof) in How Technologists Are Allowed to Work Will Be a Deal-Breaker
What You Need to Know
With hybrid approaches to work environments becoming the norm across the board, at least for the time being, organizations should avoid the mistake of treating technologists as a homogenous group.
Data shows that technologists have varying expectations and needs when it comes to remote vs. in-office work, as well as a range of views on what makes for an attractive work culture and environment. Focusing on offering flexibility and an environment that technologists can customize to their own needs (i.e., create their own schedules, choose where they work, etc.), instead of looking at all-or-nothing guidelines like all-remote or full-time-in-office, can help reframe the conversation. In the end, it’s less about where technologists work and more about how they prefer to work.
Throughout 2021, technologists have been remarkably consistent in their desire for either permanent remote work or a “hybrid” setup that combines working at home with heading into the office a few days each week. In fact, according to the American Workforce Index by Populace Insights, flexibility and the ability to do their work while still having time for other things they care about have become top priorities for workers, alongside mainstays like compensation and benefits.
In the second quarter of 2021, some 85 percent of technologists found the prospect of hybrid work anywhere from somewhat to extremely desirable, slightly ahead of the 80 percent who preferred full-time (100 percent) remote work to some degree. Given how these percentages have stayed relatively stable on a year-over-year basis, it’s clear that technologists will expect companies to offer a mix of hybrid and remote work going forward.
The complexity of hybrid work means that employers will need to take a nuanced approach to the creation of the post-pandemic work environment. At Google, for example, the new emphasis is on movable walls and equipment to accommodate a fluctuating number of workers throughout the week, along with meeting pods with video screens placed at eye level so that remote workers can feel like they’re part of the in-person group. For companies of all sizes and budgets, physical offices will possibly need to be readjusted to accommodate a constant (and potentially sizable) flux of workers throughout the week, and managers will need to stay granularly focused on planning and scheduling to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
In comparing year-over-year data, it’s clear that technologists figured out how to better manage the distractions and technical issues of remote work as time went on. If there’s a downside, however, it’s equally apparent that relationships have deteriorated between technologists and their colleagues and managers. Fifty-one percent of technologists said that remote work made it harder to develop and maintain working relationships with colleagues (up from 40 percent in the second quarter of 2020), and 34 percent claimed they were having difficulty maintaining an effective relationship with their manager (up from 22 percent in the second quarter of 2020).
Companies’ traditional reluctance to embrace remote work seems to be disappearing — but organizations must remain aware that many technologists, especially those in the 18-34 demographic, may still hunger for certain benefits that only in-office work can provide. If a hybrid approach is truly the future for organizations that have tech-focused employees, the next hurdle will be to adjust to the new challenges these solutions bring, and to both build a healthy culture and communicate the value and benefits to skilled technologists looking for a new professional home.
Desirability of remote/flexible work*
*Respondents were able to select more than one option.
In the end, a continued focus on flexibility will be key in 2022. It’s clear technologists’ needs and wants vary and treating technologists as a homogenous group is not an effective practice, especially when considering work environments and schedules. Giving technologists the freedom to choose when, where and how they prefer to work and build work around their lives, rather than vice versa (and building this belief into your organization’s culture!), will be critically important in the coming years.
Things get even more interesting when we evaluate remote-working data by age in the Dice 2021 Technologist Sentiment Report.
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