Remote Work Is Here To Stay, But The Future Is Hybrid
By Samantha Bufton
Brand Contributor - SurveyMonkey
Date Published: Mar 23, 2021
We can all agree that evolving circumstances demand answers. When it comes to adapting with agility and empathy—key themes for this year—determining the next best step requires checking in. In partnership with the video communications platform Zoom, we conducted a survey using SurveyMonkey’s Market Research Solutions to ask over 1,500 people in the U.S. about the future of work. The buzz term is on the tip of every business leader’s tongue about as often as you hear ‘digital transformation,’ and for good reason. Heads continue to spin around envisioning the return to work as we knew it. Today’s schools, state court systems, and airlines question whether to take on the role of COVID-19 symptom tracking for their employees. For business leaders, educators and government heads, it’s time to ask: how can we build back better?
As a company dedicated to quenching our thirst for curiosity, we may be semi-biased about asking questions. Yet, no matter your industry, the pace of feedback collection increased last year. By which other means will you uncover employee and student challenges, customer preferences, and community needs? Checking in with your employees and customer base gives you a big picture understanding of your most valuable stakeholders, so you can adjust, measure what ideas resonate, and, in turn, take the critical actions to deliver on business performance despite disruption.
Together with Zoom we identified key themes that characterize last year and the attitudes among workers toward the road ahead. While the “workplace as we knew it” will be more online and remote, the data shows that people are craving the in-person experience as well. Here’s why the future is hybrid.
Collaboration tools enable better work
Leading up to the 21st century, the world proliferated its technology into the intricate web of collaborative tools that we use today. While formerly our reliance on tech varied by profession, the pandemic threw a curveball on everyone’s ability to connect. Our research found that 58% of those who’ve been working from home recently say they are now using workplace collaboration tools more than they were a year ago. Office closures left a gap among knowledge/office workers that, given the recent tides in enterprise tech, only companies like Zoom, Salesforce, and SurveyMonkey could fill.
We all witnessed the scramble to reach decisions and drive business performance without traditional meetings and workspaces. And that scramble paid off: 53% say that workplace collaboration tools have made it easier for them to do their jobs. Think back to the days in the office where you’d elect a designated note-taker to track discussion points and action items. In the remote world, organic collaboration and real-time communication is possible, but we’d argue that it’s more powerful if you can ensure the outcomes of meetings are available offline. SurveyMonkey can be used within a Zoom meeting for instance to gather real-time input and feedback, which can then be shared with collaborators offline. This both reduces the number of meeting attendees and makes meetings more interactive.
SurveyMonkey’s analysis and collaboration features also remove the workload of sifting through insights to reach decisions. Sentiment analysis and shared dashboards help ensure that key stakeholders are informed and worker sentiment is tracked as it evolves.
There is an appetite for connection
Online collaboration tools are mighty, but they must augment and make communication more effective than traditional office work in order to stick. The consensus? Our research shows that two-thirds of workers who have been working from home this year (65%) say their ideal choice for a future work setup is one in which they could work both from home and from the office, evenly split between 33% preferring to work mostly from the office and 32% preferring to work mostly from home. There are a slew of reasons for this, including the need for connection with colleagues, work/life separation, and productivity. Of course, this also varies by industry and profession.
With the continued remote work model, there’s equally a growing need for connection across technology. In office or out, the discovery and availability of information has always been on the table, and the ability to seamlessly connect the dots makes life much easier. For tech companies, this puts the impetus on offering enterprise-grade tools with robust integrations. In SurveyMonkey’s case, this means enabling crucial feedback data to be tied to various workflows. Our Enterprise solution offers more than 100 data and API integrations to tackle this and looks forward to connecting the dots for more industries. If we lost you there, think of this in terms of people: there’s a reason that teamwork leads to better outcomes. The answer to better collaboration across distributed teams rests in leveraging better integrations and pre-built solutions.
Conclusion: the future is hybrid
There are many facets to the decision of how to ‘return to work,’ which is where feedback data comes. As working parents homeschool their kids and young professionals struggle to stay focused in cramped apartments, the spectrum of needs is something employers must acknowledge.
Among those who have been able to work from home, here are a few more stats advocating for the hybrid workplace:
24% of technology workers would work fully from home
56% of workers say they would prefer to attend large meetings virtually from home
44% would prefer to work in small groups on projects from home
43% would prefer to meet one-on-one with their supervisor from home
26% would prefer to meet new clients or customers virtually from home
Whatever evolving circumstances are in store, ask for input from your key stakeholders to inform your next steps. There’s no better time to start democratizing feedback.
Methodology: This SurveyMonkey online poll was conducted February 24-28, 2021 among a national sample of 1,560 employed adults in the U.S. who have been working from home. Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over.
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