Davos Agenda

Slack put 5 remote-working myths under the microscope. Here's what it found

Home working office workplace

The pandemic has upended billions of people's working lives. Image: Unsplash/Mikey Harris

Victoria Masterson
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: The Jobs Reset Summit
  • Avoiding commutes, saving money and an improved work-life balance are the most popular benefits of remote working, according to Slack’s ‘Remote Employee Experience Index’.
  • Just 11.6% of people surveyed for the report say they want to return to full-time office work.
  • 72.2% want a hybrid remote-office model.
  • The report also looks at five myths about remote working.

No commuting, saving money and an improved work-life balance are the most popular benefits of remote working, according to a new study.

A survey of more than 9,000 knowledge workers in the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan and Australia by Slack – the California-based collaboration tool – found most were happier working remotely than they were in the office.

Only 11.6% say they want to return to full-time office work, while 72.2% want a hybrid remote-office model.

Have you read?

Slack’s Remote Employee Experience Index also gives its take on five commonly held beliefs about remote working. Here’s what it found.

Remote employee experience working life
The index is based on data from a survey of 9,032 knowledge workers who identify as “skilled office workers”. Image: Slack

1. Workers aren’t missing the 9-to-5 routine of working in the office

One of the single biggest factors that influences a positive remote experience is the ability to break free of the 9-to-5 and instead work a flexible schedule, according to the index.

“Those with flexible schedules score nearly twice as high on productivity compared with those working 9-to-5 and significantly better when it comes to sense of belonging,” says Slack vice president Brian Elliott.

Home office global breakdown UK U.S. Germany
Most respondents to the Slack survey want a mix of home and office working. Image: Slack

2. Regular meetings aren’t the key to keeping employees aligned

While many of us are used to going in and out of meetings in the office, this kind of schedule might not be so effective in the remote world. “For example, workers who attend weekly status meetings actually feel worse about their sense of belonging than workers who receive status updates asynchronously through digital channels,” Elliott says.

The interactions found to have the most significant impact on workers’ sense of belonging are:

· Bi-weekly team celebrations to recognize team members or achievements.

· Monthly team-building activities.

· Monthly games or unstructured group social activities.

3. Not all workers with children are facing the same challenge

Women with children in the US face a disproportionate challenge in balancing work and childcare, the study found. “The evidence clearly points to the lack of a strong social safety net, including publicly funded childcare,” says Elliott. “It’s unlikely that the government will take decisive action to meet this need, so it is up to companies to step up and fill the void.”

Remote employee experience index gender household composition
It’s harder for women with children to balance work and childcare, the study says. Image: Slack

4. The remote-work experience isn’t worse for underrepresented groups

Black, Asian and Hispanic workers rate remote working more highly than their white colleagues, according to the index.

“It’s not clear what combination of factors creates this difference,” Elliott says. “Why is remote work helping level the experience? Have white employees always felt more of a sense of community in majority-white workplaces? Do members of minority groups feel a better sense of community because they are at home?”

The opportunity for remote work to be “a great equalizing force” is clear and unmistakable, he adds.

5. Executives and managers don’t find adapting to remote work easier

People managers, especially middle managers, were actually found to face some of the most acute challenges in adapting to remote work. These include a sense of belonging, productivity and managing stress and anxiety.

“In the remote work world, the role of the manager has shifted from gatekeeper to coach and social connector,” Elliott says. “Social ties are more difficult to build and maintain in a digital-first workplace.”

Organizations need to devote time and resources to providing people managers with new tools to enable them to coach and connect with their teams, he adds.

Employee experience index work-life balance productivity stress
Individual employees and middle managers say they feel the lowest sense of belonging. Image: Slack

The World Economic Forum’s virtual Jobs Reset Summit, held between 20-23 October 2020, brings together leaders from business, government, civil society, media and the broader public to shape a new agenda around the four core areas of growth, jobs, skills and equity.

The Work, Wages and Job Creation sessions will explore topics such as what investments are required to create new jobs, support living wages, and develop new standards in digital, physical and hybrid workplaces.

The four-day programme includes sessions on Setting New Standards for the Future of Work; A New Vision for Health at Work and Valuing Frontline Work and Workers.

The summit will also address education, skills and life-long learning amid increasing digitalization, and explore how economic and jobs disruption might be leveraged to create greater social justice and opportunity for all.

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