As organizations around the world continue reopening their offices after COVID-related closures, more employers are making plans to bring remote employees back to a physical workplace. But several reports suggest most employers and their employees do not seem to be on the same page when it comes to that.
Accenture conducted a global survey of more than 9,000 workers as part of its Future of Work Study 2021, and discovered that most people want a hybrid model, where they sometimes work remotely and sometimes go onsite. Sixty-one per cent of Canadians prefer a hybrid or remote work model and do not want to go back to working full-time from their workplace, as most say they feel they can be productive while primarily working remotely.
Overall, the study revealed that workers who had a hybrid work model during COVID-19 (58 per cent of the sample globally) had better mental health, stronger work relationships, and were more likely to feel Net Better Off than those who worked entirely onsite or entirely remotely. The “Net Better Off” framework stems from Accenture’s research with more than 3,500 C-suite leaders and more than 15,000 workers, which found that by meeting six fundamental human needs through work, companies unlock their people’s full potential. The framework’s six dimensions are: emotional and mental; relational; physical, financial, purposeful, and employable.
Leaders need to think beyond physical work location
The findings of the Future of Work study stress the need for business leaders to create a new work world to keep employees happy and engaged.
The future of work is about reimagining how and where we work, and work can no longer be viewed as a transaction or grouped simply in terms of onsite and remote, according to Janet Krstevski, managing director and Canada talent and organization/human potential lead at Accenture.
“As Canadian leaders consider the path forward for their workforce, they must move beyond a focus on physical location to shape a future of work that provides their people with the resources they need to be productive anywhere, keeping the health and resilience of Canadian workers top of mind,” said Krstevski in an interview with IT World Canada. “Resources can range from job autonomy and positive mental health to supportive leadership and a digitally mature organization.”
State of Canadians’ mental health is concerning
While the global research found 42 per cent of people thriving, only 26 per cent Canadians identified as such, showcasing less optimism and more fatigue in Canadian workforces compared to their peers elsewhere. About a quarter (28 per cent) of Canadians feel their companies are meeting their emotional health needs (compared to 36 per cent globally), and only 26 per cent say their companies are meeting their physical health needs (compared to 34 per cent globally).
“Canadians have adapted and have quickly become the ‘productive, anywhere’ worker,” said Krstevski. “However, the state of Canadians’ mental health is concerning and as responsible leaders, we need to advance the future of work dialogue to be not just about location, but to also address what drives the productivity, health and resilience of Canadian workers.”
The Accenture research also found that organizations are struggling to provide models that satisfy the needs of all workers all the time. It uncovered that what separates those Canadian workers who are productive anywhere (41 per cent) from those who are disconnected and frustrated (11 per cent) is not stress, but whether they have the right resources on an individual and organizational level to help them be productive anywhere.
Further, organizations that enable a resilient workforce are also reaping financial benefits: 56 per cent of high revenue growth companies in Canada have already enabled productivity anywhere workforce models.
“People who have the option to work in a hybrid model are better able to manage mental health challenges, have stronger work relationships, and plan to stay with their companies a long time,” added Krstevski. “As future of work discussions continue to be top of mind for businesses, understanding how leaders can maximize people’s potential regardless of their location is imperative.”
How can organizations make hybrid or remote work model successful?
Krstevski recommends that organizations consider developing human resources (HR) management policies and practices that stay in line with the ever-evolving work environment.
- Accelerate modern HR management – Organizations must devise strategies for workers across six workplace dimensions including relational, physical, emotional and mental — as they transition to new workspaces, teams, and roles.
- Design work around people – Organizations that support psychological and physical safety by acknowledging and responding to the needs of all types of workers will foster trust.
- Build digital fluency – Digitally fluent organizations have higher revenue growth and are more likely to be considered great places to work. Focusing on designing tailored skilling and learning paths that serve the needs of all workforce segments will be imperative.
- Lead with humanity – Responsible leaders create environments in which the Board, CEO and entire C-suite work together — no matter where they are.