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Gleb Tsipursky

Management

Managers Are Changing Their Minds About the Hybrid Work Model

New study shows growing acceptance of remote employees

Published: Thursday, April 6, 2023 - 11:03

A recent study at the University of Birmingham, which surveyed 597 managers, has shed light on how managers’ attitudes toward the hybrid work model have changed as a result of the pandemic. Surprisingly, the findings reveal an increasingly positive outlook on the benefits of remote and flexible working.

The study found that 52 percent of managers agreed that working from home improves concentration, 60 percent said it improves productivity, and 63 percent stated it increases motivation. This is a significant shift in attitude because there has long been a perception that working from home can be a distraction, leading to a lack of productivity and motivation.

The study also revealed that more than seven in 10 (73%) managers felt that giving employees flexibility over their working hours increased productivity, while 60 percent said the same for working from home. This suggests that managers are starting to recognize that giving employees more control over when and where they work can lead to better performance.

When it comes to the future of remote and flexible working, the study found that 55 percent of managers said roles would be advertised as available for flexible working, compared with 50 percent reporting this in 2020. This indicates that organizations are becoming more open to the idea of flexible working and are beginning to see it as a long-term solution rather than a temporary measure.

Moreover, 90 percent of managers said that mentioning the availability of flexible working in job advertisements would make them more attractive to candidates. It seems that remote and flexible working has become a key consideration for many job seekers, especially in the post-pandemic era.

Another key finding from the study is that managers are becoming more aware of the challenges of remote and flexible working. For example, 61 percent of managers agreed that working from home can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. This highlights the importance of addressing these issues and finding ways to maintain team cohesion and collaboration when working remotely.

One solution to this is to make use of technology to stay connected and collaborate with team members. Video conferencing, instant messaging, and project management tools can all be used to keep in touch and work together, even when team members are working from different locations. Additionally, leaders can also provide regular check-ins, create virtual social interactions, and encourage team members to set up virtual coffee breaks to combat loneliness and isolation.

Another important aspect of remote and flexible working is work-life balance. The study found that 57 percent of managers agreed that working from home can blur the lines between work and personal time, which can lead to burnout and stress. It’s crucial for leaders to promote a culture of healthy boundaries and encourage employees to take breaks and switch off from work during nonworking hours. This can be achieved by setting clear expectations for availability and response times, and creating a supportive environment for employees to have a good work-life balance.

It’s also worth mentioning that cognitive biases can also play a role in remote working environments because working from home can limit employees’ exposure to diverse perspectives, which can lead to a lack of creativity, innovation, and teamwork. Managers should be aware of these biases and take steps to mitigate them, such as promoting virtual interaction and collaboration, fostering a culture of feedback, and providing training on how to work effectively in a remote team.

It’s essential for leaders to recognize that remote and flexible working isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Different employees may have different needs and preferences when it comes to working from home, and it’s important to offer a variety of options and accommodations. For example, some employees may prefer to work in a dedicated home office, while others may prefer to work in a shared office space or a co-working facility. The key is to be flexible and open to different possibilities, and to support employees in finding what works best for them.

However, it’s important to mention that the study might be limited by the fact that the participants were from the United Kingdom. Managers from other parts of the world may have different perspectives and experience. Therefore, it’s essential for leaders to conduct their own research and surveys to understand how remote and flexible working affects the employees in their own organization. Additionally, they should also recognize that remote and flexible working isn’t suitable for every job; it’s important to consider the nature of the work, the team structure, and the cultural context of the organization.

That’s why when I work with my clients to help them customize a hybrid work model to their needs, we always start with a thorough survey and focus groups of their employees. Each of the 21 organizations that I helped transition during the last two years had different needs and concerns based on their industry and position in it, as well as their internal organizational culture. So while using external benchmarks such as this study is a crucial start, the next step involves adapting such research to the needs of each company.

In summary, the University of Birmingham study revealed a shift in attitudes toward remote and flexible working among managers, with many recognizing the benefits and the potential for increased productivity and motivation. However, leaders must also be aware of the challenges and potential cognitive biases that come with remote and flexible working, and take steps to mitigate them. It’s crucial for leaders to strike a balance between the advantages and disadvantages of remote and flexible working and make the necessary changes to support employees, drive performance, and create an inclusive culture.

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About The Author

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

Gleb Tsipursky

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky helps quality professionals make the wisest decisions on the future of work as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. A proud Ukrainian American, he is the best-selling author of seven books, including Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage. His cutting-edge thought leadership has been featured in more than 650 articles in prominent publications such as Harvard Business Review, Fortune, and USA Today. His expertise comes from more than 20 years of consulting for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox and more than 15 years in academia as a cognitive scientist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Ohio State. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, Twitter@gleb_tsipursky, Instagram@dr_gleb_tsipurskyLinkedIn, and register for his Wise Decision Maker Course

Comments

Much ado about nothing.

Your thesis is that "Managers Are Changing Their Minds About the Hybrid Work Model." Your evidence appears to be a single study whose findings could be summed up as: since 2020, about half of managers have had positive things to say about hybrid work models. 

The only time you report an actual change (because they're changing their minds), it is a modest change of five percentage points:

"When it comes to the future of remote and flexible working, the study found that 55 percent of managers said roles would be advertised as available for flexible working, compared with 50 percent reporting this in 2020. This indicates that organizations are becoming more open to the idea of flexible working and are beginning to see it as a long-term solution rather than a temporary measure."

How can a five percentage point difference on a survey result "indicate" anything about organizations? [edit: Agresti-Coull 95% interval estimates would have changed from 46-54% to 51-59%. You tell me.]

Looking at the cited executive summary, I found a bullet point that lays out some data over time: "Pre-pandemic (pre-2020) 43.3% of managers believed long hours were needed for employees to advance in the organisation. During the lockdowns this decreased to 38.7% (2020) and 35.2% (2021). Now, 41.9% believe that in order to advance in the organisation employees need to work long hours."

Plot these data on a run chart and then honestly tell me that they say anything at all. 

Lastly, from looking at the study report itself, I found that the managers surveyed are not the same managers every time. Why were fewer managers surveyed each time? (742 in 2020, 631 in 2021, 597 in 2022) During this same time period, Western governments of every size and shape went out of their way to destroy people's livelihoods and businesses with draconian overreach. I would have to wonder if survivorship bias has anything to do with the apparent result, except I don't have to, because the apparent result is so weak as to barely say anything at all. 

I love a flexible job as much as the next guy, but this is trade publication for people who eat data for a living. If you can't tell your story with a compelling data graphic, I am immediately suspicious, and the proliferation of "statistics as sentences" is a dead giveaway that this is more spin than substance.