A CareerBuilder survey of 1,000 workers in business services and other jobs have found that more than 75% of the workforce believes that the 9 to 5 workday is rapidly becoming or has already turned extinct.
These employees have said that their work hours are erratic, and at least a quarter of them include checking their emails and other work messages while spending time with their friends and families.
According to 62% of the respondents, no one is forcing them to do so and are doing it as a personal choice.
The former Chief Human Resources Officer of Career Builder, Rosemary Haefner (1), stated that people want more flexibility in their schedules with upgradation in technologies that would allow them to check-in at any time from anyplace. It also makes sense to let employees work outside the conventional 9 to 5 work schedule(2).
In the pre-COVID era, moving away from the traditional workweek had not been possible for most companies. However, the pandemic has allowed employees to work from home, giving them more freedom and flexibility in their schedules, improving their morale, boost productivity, and increasing retention rates.
A 3-2-2 World
A Harvard School professor believes that the 9 to 5 work schedule that most of us are aware of is on the verge of its death, and we are now heading towards a 3-2-2 world.
Some of us are already there, and it is a good place to be.
When we talk about 9 to 5, we talk about the typical workday many have known their entire working lives. And yes, the pandemic has quashed that normal over the past years as organizations and governments mandated for employees to work from home.
As part of 2021, there are several trends from 2020 that are defining the new year. A Harvard Business School professor believes that as a quasi-permanent shift, workers would soon migrate to a work-life defined as three days at the office, two days working from home, and the two-day weekend – the 3-2-2 world (3).
It certainly makes sense, and it seems like since the coronavirus emerged last year, the traditional cubicles are not long in this world.
The pandemic has made companies and workers realize that they can perform many of their job functions anywhere, such as a kitchen table in their home or a cafe in the town. And really, as long as the work is completed satisfactorily, who cares about where it happens?
Besides that, there is more going on here. As the workday world is changing, other structural shifts are occurring, overlaying atop that working trend.
More people are leaving bigger cities for smaller cities to pursue a happier work-life balance these days. The economy worldwide is fundamentally flawed at its core in terms of conventional job creation.
Amid all that, there is also an emergence of beaucoup opportunities for workers to earn online income. The world is emerging, and those who can embrace online earning opportunities are the vanguard. It gives people a chance to exploit a global marketplace that they could have never accessed from a corporate cubicle tying them to a single employer, who kept them busy for that 9 to 5 shift (4).
Moreover, when you are a writer, a graphic designer, an artisan, a lawyer, or a computer coder, it becomes your 24-7 opportunity. You won’t have to work 9 to 5. You don’t have to work 3-2-2. You can work 24-7.
Some would argue that, how is it better than 9 to 5? You are working around the clock. However, the thing is, it allows you to work whenever you want.
We believe that the modern workday would also turn into something like that. People would be available around the clock. No. it doesn’t mean that they are working around the clock. It is only that the world would have access to their skills 24-7 (5).
How Does It Sound?
The coronavirus pandemic end has come in-sight as the distribution of vaccines has started in India and most corners across the world. However, changes wrought by the pandemic are nowhere near paving themselves out.
Bill Gates believes that people will socialize differently even long after the pandemic ends. Real estate analysts are puzzled about which cities would turn the new hot since most people are free to move at any place they want, and some data crunchers are highlighting an uptick in four-day workweeks (6).
The 3-2-2 prediction of the Harward professor came via ‘LinkedIn’s year-end round of workplace trends to watch in 2021’ (7). It highlights Ashley Willians’ prediction that splits the difference between those who claim that people would fight to keep working remotely even after it is safe to go back to offices. Others say that the human desperation for in-person interaction would drive us back to cubicles and conference rooms.
A middle way might give the perfect compromise. It also gives employees guidelines to follow while also empowering them to choose a schedule that works the best for them.
Not only would it enable creativity-boosting serendipity, but it would also give people the freedom to keep up with their exercise routines and hobbies.
Salesforce’s New Ways for Employees to Work
On Tuesday (9 February 2021), Salesforce announced that its employees would have the option to work remotely full-time even when it is safe to return to the office.
Salesforce is calling its new guidelines ‘Work from Anywhere.’ It offers employees three different options for how they will work as they advance.
- Fully Remote
Salesforce stated that its new decision to offer new working methods was based on employee wellness surveys that the company sent around since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (8).
Employees working within the ‘flex’ option would report to the office anywhere from one to three days each week for more challenging tasks to do over virtual meetings. It includes tasks such as team collaborations, customer meetings, or some presentations.
Salesforce stated that most of its employees across the globe would have a flex schedule.
Other employees who could work fully-remote would be reserved for those who don’t live near one of the company’s offices or work in roles that don’t require being in a physical office.
Salesforce added that only a small subset of its 49,000 employees would work in the office-based options.
“An immersive working area is no longer limited to a desk in our Towers. The 9-to-5 workday is dead, and the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and bites.”
– Brent Hyder, Salesforce President, and Chief People Officer, in a blog post (9).
With the announcement, Salesforce, a cloud computing company, has joined other Silicon Valley tech giants.
He cites that picking up young kids from school or caring for sick family members are some of the reasons why employers should not expect their staff to work on a strict eight-hour shift every day.
He further points to how removing strict in-office requirements would allow the company to expand its recruitment of new employees beyond expensive urban centers such as San Francisco and New York.
“Our employees are the planners of this strategy, and flexibility will be pivotal in the future. It’s our pledge as employers to empower our people to get the job done through the program that works most beneficial for employees and their teams, and present flexible options to support them to be even more productive.”
– Hyder (11).
What Does it Mean for Other Organizations?
With such guidelines in place in major tech giants across Silicon Valley, other employees would also demand greater flexibility, and organizations would also require it.
Consequently, different sectors and areas would have slightly different schedules since their needs and constraints would differ. However, a happy knock-on effect would ease rush-hour gridlock as fewer of us keep identical hours.
As per the recent data from LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index, roughly half 47% of the United States professionals believe that their companies would allow them to be partially remote after the pandemic ends. Employees in some industries such as finance and tech expect even more flexibility; 67% and 73%, respectively.
The same is in the case of Indian professionals. Research by Dell Technologies revealed that more than nine in ten (91%) Indian employees are ready for even long-term remote work (12). It surveyed more than 7,000 working professionals aged 18 years and above from the APJ region, Asia Pacific and Japan. Out of which, 1,027 were from India.
The RWR, Remote Work Readiness index captured data on employees’ readiness for long-term remote work and their views on the factors essential for its success.
These numbers indicate that many Indian firms would face pressure from employees to try something similar to what Salesforce is doing or what Willians has suggested.
It is worth highlighting that organizations who had tried a mixed approach for both remote and in-person work long before the pandemic reported (13) more satisfied and happy employees, higher productivity, and reduced absenteeism.
It indicates that a switch from the old 9 to 5 to the new working modes (14) could be more than a way of appeasing people’s post-pandemic demand for flexibility. Besides, it could be good for both employee’s sanity and organizations’ success.
Hybrid Models of Work
The COVID-19 crisis has pushed tens of millions around the globe to work from home. It has accelerated a workplace experiment that had struggled to gain traction before the crisis.
Nonetheless, COVID-19 made the limitations and benefits of remote working more clear.
Even though many people are returning to the workplace as economies have reopened, executives have indicated in surveys that hybrid remote work models are here to stay, at least for some employees.
The coronavirus has broken through technological and cultural barriers that prevented employees from working remotely in the past. There is now a set motion, a structural shift.
Now that vaccines are rolling out in the market, there is a question that lingers. To what extent would remote work persist?
A McKinsey analysis found that remote work’s potential is highly concentrated among highly educated and skilled workers in a handful of occupations, geographies, and industries (14).
According to the report, more than 20% of the workforce can work remotely about three to five days a week as effectively as possible if they were working from an office.
If people worked remotely at that level, which is three to four times as many people working from home than before the pandemic, it would profoundly impact urban transportation, economies, consumer spending, and other things.
The analysis also indicates that more than half of the workforce has little to no remote work job opportunity. Some of these jobs need collaborating with others or use specialized machinery such as conducting CT scans. Workers must do such jobs on location. There are other jobs as well, such as making deliveries performed while out and about. Most of such jobs are low wage and at higher risk from broad trends like automation and digitization.
Thus, remote work risks stressing inequalities at a social level.
And even though India is known globally for its financial services and high-tech industries, most of its workforce, 464 million people, is employed in occupations such as agriculture and retail services, and they can’t fully work remotely.
Several workers can perform some activities remotely during a typical day, while some tasks need remote work.
Generally speaking, people whose jobs need cognitive thinking, problem-solving, managing and developing people, and data processing has greater potential for work from home. They also tend to be among the highest-paid.
The ability of people to work remotely also depends on the need to utilize specialized equipment. For instance, a chemical technician can only work a quarter of the time remotely since he must do most of his work in a lab with all the needed equipment.
Similar for healthcare occupations. General practitioners with digital technologies to communicate with their patients have a greater potential for remote work than surgeons who need advanced tools and equipment to do their job. Hence, the overall remote work potential among health professionals is only 11%.
Such a mixed pattern of each occupation’s remote and physical activities helps understand the hype among companies and employees to operate with a hybrid model (15).
Impact on Urban Economies
A shift to 20% of workers spending more time at home and less in an office could profoundly impact urban economies. As more people would work remotely, fewer people would commute between home and work every day or traveling to different locations for work.
It could have significant consequences on the economy, including transportation, auto sales, fuel, restaurants, and retail in an urban state. It would also affect the demand for office real estate and other consumption patterns.
Another McKinsey survey on office space managers conducted in May last year found expectations of a 36% increase in work time outside offices after the pandemic. It would mean that companies would need less office space.
Notably, several companies are already planning on reducing their real estate expenses.
Such shifts would also impact restaurants, shops, and services that cater to office workers and cut some state and local tax revenues.
For instance, as tech companies announced plans for permanent remote work options, the mean cost of a one-bedroom rental in San Francisco plummeted 24.2% as opposed to a year ago. Same for New York, which had about 28,000 residents in every sq mile at the beginning of 2020, more than 15,000 rental apartments were empty in September, the most vacancies in recorded history.
Remote workers may also shift their consumption patterns. As they are spending less on transportation, wardrobes suitable for the office, and lunch, they may shift it to other uses. For example, home office equipment, enhanced connectivity gear, and digital tools sales have boomed (16).
However, it remains to see how successful organizations would be with more than half of its employees scattered in different locations and spread prosperity to small cities.
Capturing Potential Gains from Remote Work
As employees gain experience working remotely during the pandemic, their confidence in their productivity has grown significantly.
With almost a year of experience, more employers see better productivity from their remote workers. One impediment to productivity is connectivity.
Even though Internet penetration in India has grown exponentially, the infrastructure is still sparse in some locations.
For women in India, remote work is a mixed boon. It boosts flexibility since they don’t need to be physically present. It gives them the freedom to work independently with flexible hours.
However, remote work may also increase gender discrimination in the workplace, worsening the coronavirus pandemic’s regressive effect.
The female workforce in most economies worldwide is more concentrated in occupational clusters such as food services, healthcare, and customer services. These areas have a relatively low potential for remote work.
It indicates that women are 19% at more risk of losing their jobs than men because women are disproportionately present in sectors most negatively hit by the pandemic.
The world has observed a historic shift in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, especially in the job market.
Previously, some companies used to offer work from the home ability as a perk; it has now become the new normal for most organizations.
There are estimates that more than 70% of the workforce would work remotely at least five days a month by 2025 (17).
Even though 2020 is considered the year of remote work, we are more to see as the trend continues in 2021. But would the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? Only time will tell.
Let us know your thoughts in the comment!