It’s hard to believe that over three years ago we were in a completely different mindset when it came to work - both physically and mentally. Up until 2020, in-office was the primary way to work. From 2020 to 2022, the world participated in a forced work-from-home experiment, introducing many to remote working. Today, hybrid work is what employees desire - and it’s what they have - with almost half (46%) of UK employees currently working in a hybrid format.
One theme that has remained consistent post-pandemic is flexibility. Brits are embracing flexible work - and they want more of it. This year’s data has shown (again) that employees feel more productive, balanced, and loyal to their companies when they have flexibility. Many employees will even make sacrifices for flexibility - 38% would give up 10% or more of their salary for flexible working hours, 21% would give up 15% or more for flexibility in their working location, and 10% would quit their job if they were no longer able to work remotely or hybrid.
Read on to uncover where the workplace stands now compared to 2022 and dive into the types of work that employees want or expect from their employers.
64% of respondents believe that working from home should be a legal right
1 in 2 (52%) of respondents said that they believe their company is requiring them to work from the office because of traditional work expectations
Almost 1 in 3 (29%) employees have an additional job or “side hustle”
If hybrid workers were required to be in the office full-time, 36% would go in but start looking for a new job, and 10% would quit
38% of workers said that their level of work-related stress had increased since last year
1 in 2 (48%) workers have a 31-60 minute one-way commute to their offices
48% of workers feel like their company has too many communications platforms
85% of hybrid and remote workers say they have been the same or more productive
32% of respondents said generative AI would allow them to do their job faster or more effectively in the next 5 years
82% of employees have lost meeting time in their hybrid meetings due to technical difficulties
48% of managers believe that working hybrid/remotely has made their team more productive
55% of managers believe that their hybrid/remote working employees are missing out on impromptu or non-formal feedback
20% of workers would be willing to give up 10% of their salary for a 4-day work week
One-third of hybrid employees (34%) go to the office for a few hours to show their face and then go home - also known as coffee badging
The current state of affairs
Every day it feels like a new term is introduced - from quiet quitting to office peacocking. Major companies have forced return-to-office mandates and then switched their position after employee pushback. Other companies have implemented work-from-anywhere policies and seen reduced turnover. Some have tested the 4-day work week and saw an increase in productivity. It can feel impossible to keep up with the latest trends.
We came across some interesting trends in this year’s research. One is the concept of polyworking, describing when workers have two or more jobs. Our report shows that almost 1 in 3 employees (29%) have at least one additional job or “side hustle” outside of their main full-time job, with an additional 47% saying they currently do not but would like one. Think it’s just a remote thing? Not exactly. Full-time office workers (55%) are more likely to have one additional job than hybrid and remote workers (45%).
Another new trend is “coffee badging” - the act of going into the office to “show face” for a few hours and then leaving - which is more popular than one might think. One in three (34%) hybrid employees have “coffee badged” with an additional 11% saying they haven’t but would like to try.
The data also shows that 2023 became the year that employees went back to the office. Surprisingly - or maybe not - 48% of this year’s respondents say they are in the office full-time, however, only 16% want to be. We also learned that 64% of employees believe that working from home should be a legal right.
Even though many employees returned to the office, their commitment to flexibility showed itself once again. Compensation is always a leading factor when it comes to retention and talent prospecting, however employees are willing to take pay cuts for flexibility. Almost 1 in 4 (24%) would take a 15% or more pay cut to work a 4-day work week, and 22% would take the same pay cut for a fully remote working location. Almost 1 in 10 workers (8%) said they would take a 20% or more pay cut to have flexible working hours and 7% would take a 20% salary decrease to work fully remote.
Here’s the current lay of the (working) land and the trends to know:
of respondents believe that working from home should be a legal right.
Top reasons why workers have an additional job:
Managers make up over three-quarters of those workers with at least one additional job.
Managers of employees
Around a third of hybrid workers go to the office for just a few hours to show their face (i.e., "coffee badging").
Employee desires + employer mandates
We know that what employers are mandating isn’t aligning with what employees want when it comes to in-office work. What happens when these numbers don’t match? Over 1 in 3 (36%) said they would start to look for a new job, with 10% saying they would quit. And 17% of hybrid and remote workers surveyed would expect a pay increase to make up for the additional costs if they were no longer able to WFH.
In this year’s research, we also saw a slight shift in the top factors that matter most to employees - work flexibility jumped, along with access to good technology. We also found that 79% of respondents said an important factor in an employee’s working life is a supportive manager. This was just behind compensation at 80%. We saw this trend bubble up in 2023, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
What’s driving employees to stay or start looking elsewhere when it comes to their jobs? Nearly 1 in 5 (19%) switched companies in 2023, compared to 31% in 2021-2022. What’s interesting is that full-time in-office workers were 17% more likely to have changed companies than hybrid workers and over four times more likely than remote workers. And nearly 1 in 3 employees (28%) said they have not yet changed companies but are actively looking to do so.
The reasons they changed jobs or are actively seeking a new opportunity have remained pretty consistent year over year. This year, the top reasons are for a better work/life balance (41%) and for a better career opportunity (40%), with compensation coming in third at 34%. We also learned what would cause workers not to accept a new job offer, and (maybe unsurprisingly) the top reasons were: not allowing for flexible working hours (40%), requiring employees to be in the office full-time (40%), and not allowing for a flexible working location (38%). What employees want is for employers to show them the money, relax the strict working hours, and give them flexibility. Job seekers highly value having autonomy over where and when they work - so companies offering flexible working hours (among other things) will come out on top.
Being a manager today likely requires more effort than ever before. Oftentimes, employees are scattered across the country, or even the globe. These leaders are battling employee burnout (and their own) while trying to maintain open communication and collaboration for themselves and among their teams.
Managing teams today - especially those new to the workforce and new to working in a hybrid format - poses its own unique challenges. More than 1 in 2 (55%) managers said that they feel that their team members are missing out on impromptu or in-formal feedback opportunities. However, only 38% of remote and hybrid workers agree.
What would hybrid/remote workers do if their employer required them to be in the office full-time without the option of hybrid work?
Companies and employee managers listen up, good technology may be more important than you realise with 72% of respondents saying this was important to them when working. Other important factors:
A supportive manager
84% of women ranked a supportive manager as important or very important, compared to 72% of men.
The further you work from the office the more important a supportive manager is:
Productivity is always a top concern when it comes to employers. Workers reported that their current working style makes them feel:
48% of remote workers said their working style makes them more productive, compared to just 38% of their in-office counterparts.
So what have employers done to implement more effective hybrid work?
46% of people managers reported their companies added or increased the use of employee activity monitoring software, compared to just 21% of individual contributors.
The many degrees of hybrid
Hybrid work is nuanced with many layers - it can be hard, and when not executed intentionally, it can be destined for challenges. When hybrid employees were asked why they think their company requires them to be in-office, 1 in 2 (52%) said because of traditional work expectations. Clearly many employees are unconvinced or unsure about their company’s work policies.
We learned that employees don’t readily trust their company’s practices with 1 in 3 (29%) saying it’s likely that their employer will change their remote or hybrid work policy in the next year, and an additional 25% saying they are unsure. Communication and transparency are crucial when it comes to creating effective and comfortable work environments.
Though employees are sceptical about the rationale of why they have to be in the office, it’s important to note that the story isn’t that all employees are reluctant to go to the office, they just think the office works better for some tasks than others. Over 1 in 3 (38%) hybrid workers say the office works best for team meetings, 25% for formal or informal learning, and 40% prefer it for collaborating. They shouldn’t have to choose between one or the other – if productivity remains the same or increased, employees should have autonomy on where they spend their time working.
Another topic showing staying power when it comes to hybrid working is proximity bias - the tendency of leadership to show favouritism or preferential treatment to employees that are close to them physically - which is still quite prevalent today. 45% of workers are concerned that people managers view those in the office as harder working and more trustworthy than their remote counterparts, 44% are concerned that working remotely will mean they have less of a say at work and miss out on opportunities, and 52% said they are more likely to ask the opinion of those they physically work with over their remote colleagues. Clearly, there is more work to do here.
In 2023, we have seen some companies doing their best to entice employees into the office instead of mandating it in a more “employee-choice” hybrid format. What matters most to hybrid employees when it comes to returning to the office? Hint: snacks do play a part. At the top of the list, companies paying workers commuting costs (39%), followed by free or subsidised food and beverages (34%) and a shorter commute (32%). Surprisingly - or not - 18% said they would be enticed to go to the office if they were able to wear whatever they wanted.
of workers think their employer will change their remote hybrid working policy in the next year.
The office serves an important purpose because some tasks are more effective when we can collaborate IRL. The office shouldn’t be a requirement but a flexible arrangement where employees can decide where they work best: say hello (again) to task-based hybrid work.
Hybrid workers experience both in-office and remote work on a weekly basis. Here’s where hybrid workers say are the most productive:
What size pay cut would workers take for key benefits?
How do workers find building relationships with remote colleagues compared to in-office colleagues?
What’s in that £21? Here’s a cost breakdown:
Workplace modernisation + looking ahead
The traditional office and its tech no longer meet today’s working needs. In fact, 48% of workers said they feel their employer uses too many communication platforms, so much so, it can be overwhelming. Good technology matters and is a crucial factor in the effectiveness of hybrid work.
In this year’s survey, 87% of workers said their meetings have at least one remote participant. This makes reliable and easy-to-use technology in the office essential. In 2023, 82% of employees reported that they have lost meeting time due to tech difficulties. We learned that 3 in 4 employees (76%) have difficulty seeing people’s faces and therefore miss visual cues (with 40% saying this always happens), 78% report audio issues, and 74% feel like they can not contribute effectively due to static and inefficient technology.
We’ve also learned that only 25% of companies have upgraded their meeting technology in the last year. There is a clear disconnect between employee needs and what companies are providing when it comes to basic communication and collaboration.
Now it’s time to look into our crystal ball and share our predictions for the rest of the year and beyond. From generative AI to Apple goggles, there is a lot on the horizon and it’s happening fast. So what could be implemented today and what will be adopted in the (near) future?
Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) of workers said their employers adopted AI technology to replace or augment employees’ roles this year. However, employees don’t seem to be overly concerned about the use of generative AI (like ChatGPT) with 32% saying it will help them do their job more effectively and faster. On the flip side, 1 in 5 (21%) feel that it would compete with their job and 17% are concerned it will steal their jobs altogether.
When it comes to future technologies that employees want their employers to adopt in the next two years, AI, or an AI assistant (32%) is at the top of the list and improved video conferencing technologies are next at 27%. Only 18% are interested in a virtual reality (VR) headset.
Every meeting type has its challenges. Here are the top hybrid meeting challenges.
What effect do workers think generative AI, like ChatGPT, will have on their jobs in the next 5 years?
As the data has shown, hybrid working has many benefits and, in most cases, is the preferential way to work. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges associated with this style of working. Hybrid working is like an onion - peel back one layer back and you have another, and another (and another, you get it).
There is not to be a one-size-fits-all approach, but many ways to execute hybrid working well. Successful hybrid work takes intention, thoughtfulness and 360-communication that includes the ability to pivot or change policies when they aren’t quite working.
Our main takeaway for this year’s report can be summarised with one word: Flexibility. It’s overwhelmingly what employees want and something companies can offer effectively if executed with intention. We hope you enjoyed our latest edition of Owl Labs’ State of Hybrid Work. We look forward to continuing to bring you this research each year as your trusted, go-to data source.
Thanks for taking the time to read our report. We hope it will help you transform your organisation for the better, and work towards a more flexible future.
Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any press inquiries and questions.
Background + Demographics
Manager of employees
Years at company
About Owl Labs
Owl Labs is the first company to build AI-powered, 360-degree video conferencing solutions for hybrid organisations. Its suite of products makes meetings more inclusive and collaborative by levelling the playing field between remote and in-room participants. The company’s flagship product, the Meeting Owl 3®, is the first WiFi-enabled, 360-degree camera, microphone and speaker that automatically zooms in on whoever’s speaking. Owl Labs has raised $47 million in funding and is based in Boston, with remote and hybrid employees all over the world. To learn more, visit owllabs.co.uk.
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