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Most US employers with flexible work plans choose hybrid work, HR consulting firm says

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Dive Brief:

  • The vast majority of a group of 510 employers with a flexible work program in place, 70%, plan to adopt a hybrid work model, while 20% will return to a predominately office-based model, according to a May survey by HR consulting firm Mercer.
  • Fewer respondents said they would adopt a virtual-first, fully remote or distributed model, according to Mercer. While 97% said they were planning to implement post-pandemic changes to flexible working, fewer than half were actively deploying their strategies.
  • Full-time, on-site employees will account for 40% of the average workforce among 430 of the employers surveyed, while an average of 29% will consist of those working remotely one to two days per week. Mercer researchers also suggested that employers look for ways to embrace flexibility beyond remote work, such as adopting flexible schedules or compressed workweeks.

Dive Insight:

The call for flexible work options had been growing for years, often captured in research on employee sentiments.

For example, a 2019 International Workplace Group survey found 80% of employee respondents said they would choose to work jobs that had flexible work options over those without such options. Employers, meanwhile, were increasingly adopting those solutions, the same survey found.

But the pandemic has supercharged the trend, putting remote work and hybrid work at the forefront of discussion regarding the future of employment. Though some employers have announced ambitious plans to make permanent some of the changes brought on by the pandemic, there still may exist a fair amount of disagreement between employers and employees as to how to do so. Many employers are still wary about the potential ramifications and workforce issues of hybrid work in particular, according to a recent Littler Mendelson survey.

Hybrid work impacts various other components of HR work as well. The resulting changes that flexibility may have on the relationships between workers and their managers could mean that managers need to play a bigger role in safeguarding employee well-being, sources previously told HR Dive. Hybrid work may also lead to an increased emphasis on certain benefits offerings, such as flexibility for caregivers working from home.

Not all experiments have been successful. A May Paychex survey of workers found that non-work meetings, whether virtual or in-person, were ineffective at improving team closeness compared to at-work meetings that allowed employees to discuss current events or voice their work-related frustrations.

As employers move forward in implementing flexible work options, they may need to experiment on the fly, re-examining what may or may not work for particular teams. Such an approach may be more effective than simply scrapping a failing plan altogether, one source recently told HR Dive.

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