Remote-working Gen Zers using would-be commutes to develop side hustles

For some remote workers, how they spend the time they would’ve been commuting has been critical. For Gen Z, specifically, it’s meant developing side hustles.

The most recent calculations show the average one-way trip to the office is 27 minutes and 36 seconds for U.S. workers. In the U.K., it’s almost the same: 28 minutes. Remote workers effectively then gain an hour daily. 

In the U.S. alone, workers now spend 60 million fewer hours traveling to work daily, compared to before the pandemic, according to the New York Federal Reserve’s Liberty Street Economics blog. Its findings show that, depending on age, people do different things with that time.

Older cohorts tend to devote more time to childcare, DIY, and cooking. But younger workers, while reallocating commuting time to social events, exercise, and eating out, are also making use of the extra minutes to develop side hustles and learn new skills.

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in November 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

In-office or remote work: which do Gen Zers really prefer for career progression?

The hybrid working headache is not shifting but intensifying. It is a straightforward calculation to work out that by the end of the decade, members of Generation Z — born between 1997 and 2012 — will make up around 30% of the workforce. Yet where they want to work, and thrive, is much harder to determine right now. 

A flurry of recent reports analyzing whether Gen Zers would prefer to be in the office or work remotely are wildly contradictory. For instance, a global report published in mid-October by workforce solutions company Aquent found that 77% of 18- to 24-year-olds are worried that remote work restricts their career progression. 

However, another report published in November by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and King’s Business School found that Gen Zers in London believed remote working had benefits that could help their career progression. Additionally, many people in this generation have just entered the workforce and have never worked in an office.

Considering the mixed picture, what could — and should — employers be doing today to better prepare for tomorrow, when this cohort will lead?

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in November 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

How this company is encouraging employees to create in-office FOMO to entice their colleagues back

The carrot and the stick have, respectively, been dangled and wielded to tempt or force workers back to the office, with varying success. So far, neither approach has worked that well. There is limited appetite for incentives like free yoga and chai lattes, or a team lunch on Fridays. And the stick approach is spurring people to leave.

Global mobility and food-delivery company Bolt has embraced a third approach: generating fear of missing out (FOMO).

Speaking during a recent round table event organized by messaging platform Slack in London, Mathis Bogens, Bolt’s head of internal communications, said he encourages staff in the office to post about having a great time on the organization’s Slack channels, to stoke jealousy in remote workers.

“We use FOMO. This is the easiest way,” he said. “You just share photographs of how much fun it is to be at the office,” he said. “For example, we will go out as a team and order pints and good food, enjoy it together, and share lots of photos on Slack. So those people who decided not to come to the office don’t feel good.”

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in November 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Are metaverse meetings the answer to engaging hybrid workers?

Meetings culture for hybrid workers is broken, according to recent reports and analyses. Some 43% of 31,000 workers polled from across 31 countries by Microsoft earlier this year said they don’t feel included in meetings. Some organizations are turning to the metaverse to make meetings more engaging. But can that really be the answer long term?

Despite its current low level of capability, numerous organizations have embraced the metaverse for meetings and not just for novelty value. One such business is Battenhall, which has created working spaces for employees in Meta’s Horizon Workrooms — a virtual reality meeting space it has developed — and an online game platform Roblox. “Meetings are one of the things that [the metaverse] is particularly useful for right now,” said London-based founder and CEO Drew Benvie.

For the last ten months, Benvie has used weekly team meetings in the metaverse. “Staff members reported that it increases feelings of togetherness for those working from home over traditional phone calls or video meetings,” he said. “While the metaverse is generally considered to be in its infancy … it makes Zoom calls feel prehistoric.”

Moreover, it’s what many workers want, especially younger cohorts. So finds Owl Labs’ new State of Hybrid Work report, which polled over 2,000 full-time U.K. employees. Indeed, 42% of 18- to 24-year-olds said they want an office metaverse, and a further 23% would be keen to work in VR. 

However, plenty of skeptics lurk. “I don’t think the metaverse will solve any of the issues [around engaging remote workers],” said Ariel Camus, founder and CEO of Microverse, a school that trains software engineers. “In fact, I think it will create new problems because there are new technological barriers for people to join and participate as equals in meetings.”

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in October 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Demand for fully remote jobs is on the decline

Is the desire for fully remote roles dwindling? Yes, dramatically, according to Flexa Careers’ most recent installment of the Flexible Working Index, which tracks where, when, and how people prefer to work and what companies offer. 

In August, 60% of job searches on Flexa’s global directory for flexible jobs were for fully remote roles. Yet it plummeted to 44% in September — a drop of 26 percentage points and, in pleasing symmetry, 26.4% — using a sample size of 43,569 searches by those hunting work (83% in the U.K. and 3% in the U.S.) and over 1,290 job adverts.

Interestingly, employers also mirrored the decline: only 10% of fully remote roles were advertised in September. The figure was 24% just a month earlier.

Could we be witnessing the start of seasonal fluctuations in demand for fully remote jobs?

Perhaps the drop in searches for fully remote roles hints at a deeper trend — employees and employers alike have concluded that being out-of-the-office five days a week is counter-productive. Moreover, it is increasing well-being issues and loneliness for some employees and, in turn, making it harder for employers to attract and retain talent. 

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in October 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Rise in ’employee nomading’ leaves HR teams baffled about where their staff are

Ask any human resources professional what their biggest work headache is, and you’re unlikely to hear it’s that they can’t locate their staff.

It turns out, the shift to hybrid or fully remote working that’s occurred over the last few years has meant that now HR departments are often left in the dark about where all their employees are. And in many cases, employees who decide to travel somewhere to work for a week or month aren’t always informing HR.

Well over two-thirds of employees surveyed in the U.S. and U.K. said they do not report which days they work outside of their home state or country to HR, according to HR company Topia’s Adapt to Work Anywhere report.

A further 40% of HR professionals admitted they were shocked to discover certain employees had changed their working location without informing them, but also conceded that many more employees who have gone AWOL may have done so under the radar, according to the same report.

It’s a catch-22 for employers. Most (96%) employees interviewed in the Topia survey (and other surveys indicate similar findings) ranked flexibility in working arrangements as a key factor when seeking a new employer. And 94% agreed with the statement: “I should be able to work from anywhere I want as long as I get my work done.” 

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in September 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

How to steer clear of ‘employee whiplash’ if driving a return to the office

On Valentine’s Day, Microsoft showed its affection to staff by announcing plans to reopen its Washington state and California Bay Area offices on February 28 — but will workers love it?

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the technology titan had indefinitely postponed return-to-work plans for its 103,000 employees, last September. But now its hybrid-working strategy has been revealed, and staff members are being called back into the office, it will likely spur other prominent organizations to follow suit. 

But could the sudden shift from remote to in-office working cause what Brian Kropp, chief of research for Gartner’s HR practice, calls “employee whiplash”? And, if so, what are the likely short- and long-term effects, and how can they be avoided?

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in February 2022 – to continue reading please click here.

Remote, hybrid, office? Which will be your ‘new normal’?

To help business leaders decide how their future workplaces might best operate, three experts with very different views on the subject argue the pros and cons of fully remote, hybrid and office working

After 18 months of enforced homeworking for many people, it’s difficult to foresee a future in which remote and hybrid working won’t feature. However, many businesses are keen to coax staff back to the office at least for part of the week – Covid-19 restrictions permitting – while others have spoken out against working from home, including Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon who called it an “aberration”.

So, is hybrid working likely to last, or will there be a snapback to old operating methods? Here, three experts debate whether fully remote, hybrid or office working is the best option for the future.

Fully remote working

Darren Murph has written the manual on remote working, literally, publishing Living the Remote Dream: A Guide to Seeing the World, Setting Records and Advancing Your Career in 2015. Four years later, in July 2019, he was appointed head of remote at technology company GitLab, one of the world’s largest fully remote organisations with more than 1,300 employees spread across 65 countries.

For Murph, the past 18 months have proved that remote working is the future. “The pandemic has forced organisations to grapple with reality: distributed work is here, it’s happening, and it’s no longer a choice or an argument for the vast majority of industries,” he says. “Covid-19 accelerated a trend that began decades ago, as society leverages the internet to live better lives while driving business results. The benefits are many – to the employee, the employer and the world.”

Some of the advantages, Murph argues, are a more diverse and inclusive workforce, greater efficiency in workflows and a broader global coverage in servicing clients. He also believes being fully remote makes businesses more resilient and more able to preserve continuity regardless of whether the office is open or closed. 

“Businesses will be better equipped to weather future crises by empowering results that are decoupled from geography. They’ll find it easier to hire diverse teams and elevate introverted voices that have historically been squashed,” he says.

While Murph acknowledges that “all-remote isn’t for everyone” and can make onboarding recruits more challenging, he believes the pros far outweigh the cons. “Knowledge workers have proven that they can drive results without the crutch of the office,” he says. “Rather than employees needing to justify why they should work from home as opposed to the office, we’ve entered a world where employers must justify exorbitant waste in terms of commute time and real estate to accomplish digital tasks.”

Offering his three top tips for businesses seeking to optimise a remote-working model, Murph suggests the first step is to hire a dedicated remote-work leader. “Companies need to realise this is a full-scale organisational transformation and, if you want it done well, it can’t be a part-time job,” he says.

Murph also recommends that companies audit their values and documentation hygiene to ensure both are ready for a distributed workforce. Finally, he suggests starting to shut down office spaces. “Nothing sends a clearer signal that your future will be driven by how not where work happens than a shift away from offices,” he says.

Hybrid working

Samantha Fisher is head of dynamic work for Okta, an identity and access management company. Explaining what dynamic working means at Okta, she says: “It’s about personalising the working experience and enabling employees to work in whichever way makes the most sense for them. It’s not just a case of where employees are located – at the office, home or elsewhere – it’s about workplace design, people engagement, technology, talent acquisition, morale and company culture.”

At the start of the coronavirus crisis, 30% of Okta’s 2,400 employees were already working remotely. “We found that this flexibility increased empowerment, satisfaction and productivity,” says Fisher. “The pandemic accelerated the need for more flexible frameworks. Over the past year or so, employees have benefitted from a better work-life balance and reduced commuting costs, as well as greater autonomy which has led to more empowerment.”

Appointed Okta’s first head of dynamic work in January 2021, she was tasked with building organisational culture more broadly, anchoring equity, social connection and productivity, and enabling employees to work from anywhere successfully. “I spend a lot of my time working with cross-functional teams, thinking about the programmes, services and experiences we offer while in the office and how we can translate these for a hybrid environment and/or reposition services in a way that enhances experiences at any location,” she says.

The pandemic has forced organisations to grapple with reality: distributed work is here… it’s no longer a choice or an argument for the vast majority of industries

Fisher stresses the importance of “community building”, explaining that the workplace is a vital part of the business ecosystem and a key element of organisational culture. “I look at developing creative and holistic solutions that augment talent strategies, optimise technology enablement and support shifts in workforce operations,” she says.

Okta’s The New Workplace Report: A Business Balancing Act – published in June 2021 and based on a survey of more than 10,000 office-based workers across eight European countries and 12 industry sectors – found 42% of respondents wanted a mix of home- and office-based working, 17% wanted to work from home permanently and just 16% wanted to work in the office five days a week.

But what’s needed to make hybrid working successful? “For organisations to provide flexibility and equity in their workplace environment, you need executive support, investment in technology, a focus on culture and experience, and leaders to build and drive long-term strategy,” says Fisher. “It’s a fully cross-functional initiative and requires both passion and heart to curate a dynamic working environment.”

Office working

Chris Grazier, an office agency partner at Hartnell Taylor Cook and president of the Bristol Property Agents Association, is confident that office working will thrive again. But he urges organisations to be smarter with their workspaces rather than using the trend for hybrid working as a way to downsize and, ultimately, cut overheads.

Grazier admits that the democratisation of video conferencing during the pandemic has been “a revelation for all businesses”, including in the property industry in which he has operated for almost three decades. “The flipside,” he says, “has been staff isolation, the effect on teamwork, the inability to mentor junior staff and the loss of creativity that springs from face-to-face or group working.”

Now, after a year and a half of Zoom calls, there is a collective craving to return to the office and to network and collaborate without an awkward time delay or mistakenly being on mute. “The office is where business culture is formed,” says Grazier. “It’s both good for the employee, who can build some separation between home life and work, and it connects employers with employees in a way that a Zoom call never can. And despite headlines touting that the home is the office of the future, over the past few months we have witnessed businesses returning staff to the workplace.” 

Rather than employees needing to justify why they should work from home… employers must justify exorbitant waste in terms of commute time and real estate to accomplish digital tasks.

Indeed, data showing the floor space taken up in Bristol city centre in the past three quarters, including Q2 this year, reveals more ‘Grade A offices’ – high-quality workspace, refurbished or new – have been occupied than non-Grade A spaces. “This is a complete reversal of previous trends, and it hints that businesses are focusing on less but higher-quality space for their new offices than they did for their former ones,” Grazier says.

Echoing concerns from business leaders about tracking workers’ productivity away from the office, Grazier believes that by investing in smarter workspaces, staff will want to return. “I’d recommend that organisations use less space but improve the quality,” he says. 

Grazier also points out that many organisations are emerging from the pandemic with a decent balance sheet, thanks to government support, offering them a unique opportunity to upgrade their offices. “Don’t try to save money if you are moving,” he advises. “Try to spend that money more wisely by creating an environment that draws on the strengths of teamworking and positive culture.”

This article first appeared in Raconteur’s Hybrid Working report, published in September 2021