The new world of work: too remote, too close or just right?

Employees and employers are not yet on the same page around new work models.

Employees and employers have different views on the work model of the future, with recent research indicating that five percent of organisations plan for their employees to continue working from home, while 50 percent of employees would like to continue working from home.

Research from Afriforte further shows that while 41 percent of employees are keen on a hybrid work model, only four percent would like to return to the worksite.

In contrast, around 50 percent of the organisations surveyed are planning for their employees to return to their worksites, while 44 percent plan to adopt a hybrid model. This aligns to a global Gartner study which found that after the pandemic, companies are planning for nearly half of employees to work remotely, at least some of the time.

A report by the International Workplace Group, titled the 15-Minute Commute, indicates how employees want to live in closer proximity to their place of work, so their maximum commute is no more than 15 minutes. According to the research, not only will hybrid work become the primary model for the future, but there will be smaller, shared, community-based workspaces developing to address this need.

Dumo Mbethe, CEO of Momentum Corporate, believes business leaders need to find a “Goldilocks” solution.
He explains, “Most of us are familiar with the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. Goldilocks samples all three bowls of porridge before she finds the one that is just right for her. Organisations differ significantly in terms of industry dynamics, strategies, and employees.

Leadership teams need to work collaboratively with employees as they explore and ultimately find the work model that is just right for their organisation.”

He continues, “Gone are the days of a top-down approach in which leaders base the EVP [employee value proposition] and EB [employee benefits] mix on what they believe is best for employees. If we want our employees to become strategic enablers of our organisation’s success, we need to work collaboratively, creating a culture and an EVP/EB mix that aligns to their lived life experience.”

This approach to leadership is already evident, with recent research by Momentum Corporate showing that employees have generally found their leaders to be caring and empathetic as they lead their organisations through the challenges of Covid-19. This has strengthened employees’ trust and confidence, keeping them feeling connected to their organisation.

Other highlights of the research indicate that leaders are prioritising:

  • Clear, ongoing, open communication.
  •  Building trust between all employees.
  •  Clear strategy, measurable objectives and accountability for growth and retention.
  • The appropriate technology to support employees working remotely.

According to Dumo, there are risks for employers who dogmatically ignore the changing dynamics of the workplace and employees’ changing psyche and needs.

“As we tackle these challenges, it’s particularly important to understand the needs of younger generations and a growing contingent of gig workers, and carefully consider how to respond to their needs with an evolved logic so as to create a culture in which all employees feel appreciated, protected and invested in the success of the business,” he says.

Dumo does, however, point out that remote workers are more highly exposed to role workload and ambiguity, where individuals simply have too much to do and insufficient resources to deliver, which contributes to burnout, stress-related ill health and motivation. These employees also face increased work-life balance challenges as home and work boundaries blur.

“The research also shows that while traditional employee benefits such as retirement savings and group insurance remain core, there is a growing need for a more holistic mix of benefits to address employees’ physical, mental and short-term financial wellness needs,” he adds.