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95% of knowledge workers want flexible hours more than hybrid work, and managers should pay attention

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Knowledge workers have a clear vision for the future of work, and it’s hybrid.

Future Forum, a consortium launched by Slack in September 2020, shared its latest global Pulse survey last week. Over 10,000 knowledge workers, from the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K., weighed in, and overwhelmingly they want jobs offering a hybrid model—part-time in the office and part-time working from home.

The percentage of knowledge workers in hybrid working arrangements has increased to 58%, up from 46% in May 2021, and the share of workers who say their teams work exclusively in either the home or the office has dropped off, Future Forum’s survey found.

Globally, nearly seven in 10 (68%) respondents said hybrid is their preferred work environment. But most workers also want flexibility in not just where they work but when. While 78% of all survey respondents say they want location flexibility, nearly all (95%) want schedule flexibility.

Managers should be paying attention to these requests: 72% of those dissatisfied with the amount of flexibility their employer offers said they’re likely to look for a new job in the next year.

“People don’t want a full, nine-to-five day of meetings,” Brian Elliott, executive leader of the Future Forum, tells Fortune. “They want the flexibility to turn off notifications when it’s right for them. Maybe for caregivers, it’s the flexibility to log off from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and then come back and do some heads-down work after the kids are in bed.”

This desire for flexibility is particularly strong among historically underrepresented groups, including people of color, women, and working mothers.

In the U.S., 86% of Hispanic and Latino knowledge workers and 81% of Asian and Black knowledge workers indicated they prefer hybrid or remote work; just 75% of white knowledge workers do, the study found. Globally, 52% of women want work-location flexibility at least three days a week, compared with 46% of men. Half of working mothers want to work remotely most or all of the time, compared with 43% of working fathers.

Proximity bias may hurt underrepresented communities most 

While there are many pros to hybrid work and flexible schedules, there’s one drawback that’s of big concern: proximity bias, or favoritism toward colleagues who work together in a physical office. Today, the No. 1 concern among executives with respect to flexible work is the potential for inequities to develop between remote and in-office employees, the survey found.

Executives consistently spend more time in the office than their employees, with 71% of executives saying they currently work from the office three or more days a week; comparatively, 63% of nonexecutive employees do.

This disparity will probably increase. Current remote-working executives are much likelier than nonexecutives to say they want to work at least three days a week in the office (75% versus 37%).

“It’s not surprising that the people who go into the office the most are white men, nonparents, and executives,” Elliott says. “The data we’ve seen in the past two years has shown that people who value flexibility more are minorities, women, and parents.”

Proximity bias is likely to most harm underrepresented employee groups, because they opt into flexible work arrangements most: 84% of Hispanic/Latinx respondents to Slack’s survey, 76% of Black respondents, and 74% of Asian/Asian American respondents in the U.S. are currently remote or hybrid workers; only 67% of white respondents are.

“Some say you need people back because you need a sense of belonging, and yes, we’ve been separated for many years, but a sense of belonging can be built without requiring five days a week in the office,” Elliott says.

To combat proximity bias and ensure equity between remote and in-office employees, leaders need to intentionally align on principles outlining how hybrid work will function at their organizations. This can include limiting the number of days per week people are allowed to work in-office, or setting a meeting policy that if “one dials in, all dial in.”

At Slack, Elliott’s team agreed that executives can’t come into the office more than three days a week, which he says is a good way of showing their seriousness about hybrid work to employees. “The executive team has to lead the way,” he says. “If you say you’ll be flexible, but all the executives are showing up on the C-suite floor, everyone else will fear they have to be there.”

Original Article: | 95% of knowledge workers want flexible hours more than hybrid work | Fortune

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