Turning the tide with the Everywhere Workplace

Liam Ryan, Vice President for Asia Pacific, Ivanti

After two years of pandemic-induced remote work, companies are calling workers back to the office — only to find that many employees no longer wish for full-time office positions. Like it or not, the “everywhere workplace” is here to stay and it is upending the traditional business model.

Here are five ways the everywhere workplace is permanently disrupting the status quo:

1. Employees can control where they work

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower announced that the nation’s unemployment rate decreased from 3.4 per cent to 2.6 per cent for PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) and from 5.1 per cent to 4.4 per cent for non-PMETs throughout the course of 2022.

A drop to near pre-COVID levels was also experienced among both PMETs (0.8 per cent to 0.5 per cent) and non-PMETs (0.9 per cent to 0.7 per cent) concerning the long-term unemployment rate. The promising employment market has proven that employees are not afraid to quit if expectations are not being met.

The potential softening of the economy and a looming recession are not enough to fully reverse this employee-centred trend because the everywhere workplace means that employees can work for any company, anywhere and are not limited geographically. That opens up a literal world of opportunities for them.

Today, employees are looking beyond pay cheques and benefits when considering a position. Our Everywhere Workplace Report found that 71 per cent of employees would rather work from anywhere than be promoted.

Additionally, 24 per cent of respondents stated that they would quit their job if their employer enforced a full-time return to the office policy and only 13 per cent of respondents said they would like to work permanently in the office.

Respondents indicated that the top three benefits of working remotely are time savings due to less commuting (48 per cent), better work-life balance (43 per cent) and a more flexible work schedule (43 per cent).

Furthermore, the number of digital nomads continues to climb, especially among younger generations. A 2021 survey sponsored by MBO found that 15.5 million workers currently describe themselves as digital nomads, increasing an incredible 112 per cent from 2019.

These statistics, combined with news stories highlighting employee pushback against companies requiring staff to return to the office, make the current environment unclear. Knowledge workers expect a hybrid work option and are willing to leave a job if not given that option.

2. The 9-to-5 schedule is becoming extinct

The old notion of believing everyone needs to be in the same space at the same time to be productive has been turned upside down. Gone are the days of the 9-to-5, Monday through Friday in-office work model. Today, if companies want to attract and retain top talent, they need to allow for employee autonomy when it comes to work schedules.

The current landscape demands a top-down shift focusing on the work itself and not when and where it is done. Employees are looking for a better work-life balance and some companies are embracing this shift by experimenting with flexible work hours and four-day work weeks. The opportunity to create a better work-life balance can result in increased productivity. The Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey revealed that 43 per cent of respondents said flexible working hours helped them achieve more productivity.

When companies focus on outcomes and accomplishments instead of set hours worked, they can cultivate a work environment that ultimately leads to more productivity and efficiency, plus happier employees.

3. Communication, collaboration and culture are now priorities

In the everywhere workplace, there is no watercooler or lunchroom where employees can strike up those everyday conversations that are intrinsic to developing relationships that ultimately strengthen a company’s culture. There is an elevated need to examine how companies communicate and facilitate collaboration to ensure continued employee engagement and a positive corporate culture.

It is all too easy for organisations to create silos in a hybrid work environment. Networking and team building need to extend beyond the next email or video meeting. Management needs to be proactive in engaging employees and developing a positive culture. It is imperative to create those social interactions that make work more than project deadlines and outcomes.

This also necessitates a shift in HR from processes and paperwork to people and the growing importance of creating a welcoming workplace culture that engages employees.

4. We must have an employee-first mentality

Great employee experiences have a ripple effect on a company. Positive experiences result in happy employees who make for more productive employees — and, by extension, happy customers. In other words, employee experience needs to be a priority for the C-suite as it directly correlates to not only employee productivity but also to morale and job satisfaction.

Employee experience is no longer just about free snacks; it encompasses everything from how valued employees feel at work to the type of tech they use to do their job. Knowledge workers are becoming more discerning about the tools and devices they use and the experience they have with them. Our recent study revealed that 49 per cent of employees are frustrated by company-provided tech and 26 per cent are considering leaving their job because of it.

If companies hope to attract and retain top talent and increase productivity, there needs to be a shift to an employee-first mentality. Employers need to actively address employee engagement, well-being and the tools people need to do their jobs well.

5. IT needs a seat at the decision-making table

As the everywhere workplace expands, so do the number of devices, apps and other technologies needed for continued productivity. IT is responsible for discovering and managing more devices on and off a network than ever before and securing them in a way that is unobtrusive to the user.

As more employees use their personal devices for work purposes, there is an increased cybersecurity risk. Companies look to IT to provide security protocols that reduce risks and policy violations. The role of IT is much more than providing help desk support; it is fundamental to employee experience and a company’s security. With so much at stake, it is vital that IT is a part of any discussion concerning technology policies and investments.

The everywhere workplace is not going anywhere. With it comes a need to embrace disruption and make a fundamental shift in the business model of many companies. It is an exciting time for leaders to position their organisations as innovators — if they are willing to embrace the disruptions and this permanent change.