When you envision the future of work , what do you picture? If it involves teams gathered at the office—or even huddled around their computers between 9 and 5—think again.
Increasingly, we’re seeing companies use flexible work models such as hybrid work, asynchronous work and even the 4-day work week . Thanks to rapid advances in remote work capabilities, employers and employees alike have more power than ever before to shape and control their workweek.
So what does the future of work actually look like? Overwhelmingly, work is moving home. In 2022, McKinsey found that 58% of workers have the option to work from home at least part-time and that 87% take advantage of that option.
“Most industries support some flexibility, but digital innovators demand it,” the report adds.
It reveals that the vast majority of computer and mathematical workers have a flexible work schedule and that 77% are willing to work remotely.
Painting a picture of the future of work requires taking these—and other statistics—into consideration. Here, we lay out some of the most interesting data about flexible work for both employers and employees.
Here’s your glimpse into the future…
The future of work for employees
The benefits of a flexible work schedule for employees are plentiful. Even beyond the obvious perks of working in your pajamas and saving on gas, there’s a lot to consider.
Remote work saves employees money.
A survey of 3,000 employees by Global Workplace Analytics found a typical employee can save $2,500 to $4,000 a year if they work from home. This number increases in large cities and for workers who move to less expensive areas.
As wages lag behind rapidly rising inflation, the value of these savings increases. In fact, nearly 40% of millennials and Gen Zers report flexible work has saved them money. It’s likely a contributing factor to their resistance to a return to the office.
Asynchronous work provides flexibility.
The Pew Research Center reports 77% of workers with jobs that can be done from home are choosing to do so at least some of the time. One of the biggest reasons cited is that working from home has made it easier to balance work and their personal life, according to 64% of respondents.
This valuable balance is thanks in large part to asynchronous work options. Asynchronous work allows workers to communicate and collaborate during their unique productivity peaks and personalize their work schedules to meet their individual needs and preferences.
Work from home, or wherever your heart is.
Gone are the days when workers absolutely had to live in the same city as their company’s physical office. The future of work is mobile.
- The number of digital nomads rose from 4.8 million in 2018 to more than 15.5 million in 2022.
- According to Upwork, 19 million Americans also planned to relocate in 2022 thanks to remote work. Of them, 28% intended to move more than four hours away.
Where are people moving? Perhaps expectedly, the flow is mostly from high-cost-of-living cities to more affordable areas.
Data shows San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City are experiencing the highest outflow in the country. People want to live where their dollar goes further and, in some cases, where they can be closer to family .
Flexible work reduces commutes.
Without a commute, work-from-home employees automatically regain nearly an hour a day on average of time normally spent on the road. That’s five more hours of free time per week to spend with family, engage in hobbies or do whatever brings workers a better sense of work-life balance.
That’s good news for employers, too. Research shows 72% of people consider work-life balance in their job search, and 33% of employees with a good work-life balance say they plan to stay at their current jobs.
Less commuting helps the planet.
In addition to freeing up time, reduced commutes are good for the planet. In the U.S., 29% of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation—mostly from cars, trucks, and buses. In Canada, a switch to telework for all employees able to work from home was projected to reduce emissions from transportation by 11% .
In terms of creating a sustainable workforce , it’s a win for the future of work.
How employers benefit from flexible work models
Nearly all of these employee remote work benefits lead to wins for employers as well. Consider these stats when envisioning the future of work.
Fewer people in the office means lower costs.
Office vacancy reached a height of 17.2% in the wake of the pandemic, and experts doubt we’ll ever reach pre-COVID occupancy rates again. This isn’t exactly a loss. Global Workplace Analytics says letting employees work from home just half of the time can save companies up to $11,000 a year per worker.
With the cost of providing employee laptops and supply stipends being far lower than that, flexible work is the obvious choice. Many companies already offer anywhere between $1,000 one-time stipends (Google) to a $500 stipend plus coverage of employee internet bills (Chegg).
Compared to $11k a year, that’s a steal.
Flexible work leads to greater happiness and productivity.
The added flexibility of remote work allows employees to balance work and home life, leading to higher rates of employee satisfaction. In fact, one study found employee happiness increases by up to 20% with a flexible work schedule.
How does that benefit employers?
- Happy employees are around 12% more productive than unhappy ones, according to research.
- Another survey found that 77% of those who work remotely at least a few times per month show increased productivity. They did more work in less time, or more work in the same period of time.
Happier employees equals better retention.
Seeking a more flexible work schedule is the third most popular reason why workers are looking for a new job. Job seekers, at least 55% of them, want flexible work options. Meanwhile, 50% of current employees say they’d quit their jobs if they were required to go back to the office full-time.
Research by Bloomberg shows offering remote work just two days a week reduced quit rates by one third and significantly increased employee satisfaction, work-life balance and intention to stay at a job. Just look at Spotify: the company allowed its 6,500 employees to work anywhere. Employee turnover dropped by 15% .
According to SHRM, the average cost per hire is $4,683 . This doesn’t include any losses incurred from positions sitting unfilled, slowing down productivity. The better your retention, the better your bottom line.
Remote work opens the door to more talent.
When it comes time to fill positions, flexible work brings yet another benefit for employers.
Rather than limiting your candidate search to a geographic region, the world becomes your talent pool.
As Chris Herd, CEO of Firstbase, Tweeted: "We hire the best person in the world for every role. Our competitors hire the best person they can afford in a 30-mile radius.”
A flexible work schedule also makes jobs more welcoming for parents, caregivers and workers with disabilities . Employees and employers alike can even save on relocation costs and friction. And one more bit: surveys suggest over half of hiring managers feel remote work has opened up their ability or willingness to utilize more freelancers.
The future of work is flexible
While it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future of work will look like, a few things are certainly clear.
- Companies that offer flexible work experience higher employee retention and productivity.
- They save money and enjoy a bigger talent pool.
- Meanwhile, employees of those companies experience higher satisfaction, flexibility, and savings.
- They commute less, live where they want, and reduce our impact on the planet.
How prevalent will flexible work be? COVID-19 spurred widespread adoption, with 45% of the U.S. workforce working from home at least part-time in 2021. However, that won’t necessarily be the new normal.
Estimates forecast that we’ll level out to 25 to 30% of the U.S. workforce working from home at least part-time after the pandemic ends. That means some workers will return to the office full-time in the near future, but many will spend at least some working hours at home.