With 2023 fast approaching, now is the time for businesses to take stock of 2022 and plan for the new year.
Set against a turbulent backdrop, with 2022 dubbed a ‘permacrisis’ by Collins Dictionary, it has never been more important to ensure businesses attract and retain the best talent. Owl Labs, a global collaborative technology company, today releases research from its annual State of Hybrid Work study exploring the expectations of SMB employees in the UK.*
UK SMB employees are calling for greater flexibility, with the majority (69%) willing to take a pay cut for a four-day work week, while over a third (38%) believe flexible working hours to be the most important factor when considering whether to remain in their current role. With ‘quiet quitting’ on the rise, and growing calls for inflation matching pay rises, offering greater flexibility will prove key to preventing employees from leaving their current roles.
Flexibility is key to employee satisfaction
Burnout and more autonomy while working remotely during the pandemic have firmly cemented flexibility as a prerequisite for any SMB employee. As a result, 30% of participants surveyed are worried that they will be required to return to the office full-time with no hybrid option. Similarly, 30% would not accept a job offer if they were not offered flexibility over their working location, and 29% would decline if they were required to work in the office full-time. In response, flexible working hours is the most appealing benefit for prospective employees (40%), followed by a 4-day work week (36%) and unlimited holiday (31%).
However, although employees are seeking out more flexible and hybrid modes of working, they are still concerned that this will impact their long-term progression and prospects. The pressure to perform is felt by 53% who are concerned that working remotely will mean they have less of a say at work and will miss out on opportunities. What’s more, 60% of SMB employees believe employers tend to trust full-time office workers more than hybrid or fully remote workers. Businesses will, therefore, need to implement robust bias training programmes for employers to maintain the balance between flexibility and career development.
Quiet quitting is making some noise
Post-pandemic SMB employees have continued to reassess what’s important to them. When looking to retain top talent, businesses may need to explore new flexible working policies. Whilst 40% would be convinced to stay with their current employer if offered a 4-day work week, a further 29% would be convinced to stay with their current employer if given unlimited holiday.
The ‘quiet quitting’ movement – where employees rally against the hustle culture and only do what is required of them at work – is gaining momentum. The survey results speak to this trend and demonstrate that 69% would take a pay cut for a 4-day work week, whereas 73% would take a pay cut for unlimited holidays. Employees want benefits that offer them more freedom outside of work – 61% would take a pay cut for condensed hours (e.g. Working the same weekly contracted hours as before but condensing those hours into fewer days).
Keeping employees engaged with immersive technology
One driving factor for those quietly quitting – and the broader workforce – is that they feel disengaged with their jobs. A third (35%) believe they spend too much time in online meetings, and when partaking in online meetings, 42% sometimes find it difficult to be part of, or contribute to, conversations.
A modernised tech stack is key to maintaining an immersive work culture among hybrid teams, no matter where they are based. One in three (29%) of SMB employees believe that their business requires improved video-conferencing technologies, whilst 35% suggest that the metaverse could improve flexible working in the future. SMB employees have high hopes for the potential of new technologies as 20% believe Virtual Reality could improve working from home, alongside Augmented Reality (13%) and Holograms (15%).
Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs, said, “Levelling up video conferencing tools can be a strong first step to fostering positive workplace experiences, and with the Cost of Living crisis firmly cemented in everyone’s minds, it is critical for SMB employers to consider the needs of employees most affected by rising costs. Starting with increased benefits, leadership must be open to new immersive tech and bias training to successfully integrate employees working remotely.”
“It is no surprise that the phenomenon of Quiet Quitting has followed the Great Resignation; its occurrence indicates a demotivated workforce. Employers must foster a physiologically safe work environment where remote employees feel a forward sense of progression beyond career development opportunities. SMB employees need to feel like they are gaining new skills and have greater control over their jobs whilst being acknowledged and valued for their work.”