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Working to Live or Living to Work, Episode 2: Never Going Back

Even in the early days, we all knew that COVID would result in some paradigm shifts when it comes to our relationships with work. This series examines shifts across various fields and sectors that show how people worldwide are re-evaluating existing work/life balance.

Ipsos partnered with the World Economic Forum to conduct a massive survey of over 12,500 employees across 29 countries. There are some weaknesses to this study: it was conducted between May and June, which means that its results may no longer be relevant. That is, many of these respondents might have slightly different thoughts and opinions following mass vaccination campaigns in their countries. Furthermore, countries have vastly different work cultures, so combining data across cultures may skew it heavily. Despite these weaknesses, the survey’s results still offer valuable conclusions.

66% of people believe that employers should be more flexible in terms of requiring employees to go to an office once COVID restrictions are no longer in effect.

This is by far the takeaway that will have the most ramifications for employers worldwide. COVID restrictions have been steadily fading away across the globe (though not everywhere). Even if there were no restrictions, it is clear that two-thirds of employees do not to fully go back to the office. Even if we do eventually get COVID fully under control, it will be a long time before we recover from the mental effects of the pandemic. People are finding it hard to fathom having to spend so much time away from home.

65% of people believe they are more productive with a flexible work schedule

This one is a little bit of a no-brainer. A flexible work schedule has traditionally been a hallmark of well-paid positions. Once more people gained access to what was once considered the luxury of the elites, they grew used to its advantages. Maybe this statistic is skewed: it would make sense for people to want to inflate this figure. Whether or not they believe they are more productive with a flexible work schedule, it is clear that people want access to this benefit. Or rather, this former benefit that is increasingly looking like a minimum that people will need to offer.

64% want flexibility in the amount of time they go into the office.

This conclusion is perhaps the most striking to me. Isn’t this number awfully low? For many, it is hard to fathom a worker who does not want flexibility in the amount of time they spend in the office. That said, they are not accounting for the fact that many people adore stability. In fact, according to this survey, some 36% of workers value it significantly more than flexibility.

In conclusion, work expectations are changing. By now, it is trite to say that we are in the “new normal” or the “next normal” or “never normal”. Whatever we want to call it, greater worker flexibility is now an expectation, almost a right, and not a luxury.

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Working to Live or Living to Work, Episode 1: Labour Shortages