Joy Flexibility Image by Peter Gottschalk from Pixabay Slack has published the latest findings from a Future Forum Global Pulse Survey. The winter 2022/23 Global Pulse survey focuses on workplace flexibility and its impact on culture, productivity and employee experience. The survey found that workers empowered to work flexibly are better engaged, and the policies have helped strengthen culture over the last two years.

While employee burnout is increasing, adopting a flexible working policy can mitigate this. 43% of employees dissatisfied with work flexibility are more likely to say they are burned out.

Future Forum, launched by Slack with founding partners Boston Consulting Group, MillerKnoll, and MLT, focused on building a flexible, inclusive, and connected way of working. It has conducted pulse surveys since August 2020. The report comes from the findings of the latest quarterly survey that includes 10,000 responses from desk workers in the US, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the UK.

At around nine pages of text (Enterprise Times had visibility of a draft rather than a final copy), the report consists of the key findings, responses, and basic analysis from the 15 questions asked. It concludes with the methodology used to conduct the survey,

The disconnect on flexible working

There has been a lot of research carried out recently about flexible working, and one thing is clear, it is still evolving. This is not surprising with companies making decisions and creating different states of hybrid working. Employees like flexible working, with 57% believing it has improved company culture. However, leaders are less sure, with 25% seeing team culture negatively impacted by flexibility.

The challenge is that flexible working introduced personal preferences, which means there is no consistency, and face-to-face team building is rarer. The survey lacks a qualitative element that might have provided further insight. Enterprise Times has spoken to several CEOs about the subject over the last few months, and most see a place for physical meet-ups as part of their flexible working policy. Some employees see meeting up as an advantage for collaboration (33%) and building camaraderie (23%).

The survey also looked at the importance of transparency within organisations. Employees who believe their firms are transparent and share relevant information have 8.8 times greater job satisfaction than those who don’t.

Transparency is also important for retention. Employees who don’t believe their company “is being very transparent regarding post-pandemic remote working policies” are 2.3x more likely to say they’ll “definitely” look for a new position in the coming year. Again there is a disconnect between leaders and employees. While 73% of executives believe they are very transparent, only 41% of employees agree.

On Burnout

Burnout risk is at its highest level since May 2021, with 42% reporting burnout, 2% higher than last quarter. The survey also asks what impacts burnout among employees. Employers who deploy modern innovative technology are less likely to feel burned out. Laggards are 31% more likely to feel burned out. There are other advantages:

  • Productivity is 1.6x higher
  • The ability to focus is twice as high
  • Sense of belonging is 2.2x higher
  • Overall satisfaction is 2.8 higher

One of the few times the report delves into the demographic detail available highlights that women (46%) are more likely to feel burned out than men (37%). The younger generations are also more likely to feel burned, with 48% of workers under 30, compared to 40% of those over 30, feeling burned out.

Flexibility is key

The survey revealed that 17% work fully remotely, 35% work full-time in an office, with 49% work in a hybrid environment. The assumption is rounding appears to make this add up to 101%. However, whilst this might give an appearance of flexibility, 59% say they cannot adjust their hours from a preset schedule.

Bosses appear to be giving themselves the most flexibility, with executives able to set their schedules 75% of the time compared to employees (41%). This disconnect should concern some, especially as 93% of employees want flexibility where they work. The survey did not look at the hours of work or the four-day working week, which is increasing in popularity.

A brief look at racial diversity found that in the US, employees of colour are more likely to have a preference for location flexibility: 86% Asian/Asian American, 81% Black, 80% Hispanic/Latinx, and 79% white.

Working parents also want greater flexibility than those without dependents, with 59% of mothers (47% of fathers) saying they want to work outside the office between three and five days a week.

Brian Elliot, Executive Leader, Future Forum & SVP at Slack
Brian Elliot, Executive Leader, Future Forum & SVP at Slack

Brian Elliott, the executive leader of Future Forum, “In the midst of economic uncertainty and a push to ‘return’ back to how things were in 2019, it is critical for leaders to figure out what works best for their teams today. The data shows offering flexibility not only boosts productivity and decreases turnover, but it also improves culture. Giving employees choice in their day-to-day work while coming together in person with purpose is a highly effective way to drive employee connection and build trust.”

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

There are some interesting findings within this survey. However, without a qualitative analysis as well, it merely scratches the surface of reality. The inference, however, is that flexibility is not about where people work. It also covers how people work and when they work. Collaborative tools such as Slack can enable people to work effectively no matter where they are located. It can also enable both asynchronous and synchronous communication across worldwide teams.

What is also missing from this analysis is a breakdown by geography, with the report only highlighting one variance from the US across the statistics. With over 10,000 responses, it would have been useful to see the differences international culture made between the different questions.

Hofstede identified six dimensions of culture in his framework for cross-cultural communication. Did the responses reflect the national cultural differences that Hofstede identified? There is also a multitude of studies that look at generational differences. Should these have an impact on decisions made by a business? For example, is innovation more important to the younger generations?


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