How are workplaces evolving to meet the challenges of today?

In this age of growing promises from employers – to be more sustainable, to be more inclusive – are employees experiencing any discernible differences?

The way in which workplaces function has changed dramatically over the past few years.

Evidently, in terms of where employees carry out their work, there has been fundamental change brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing millions around the globe to adjust to remote or hybrid working. 

But the evolution of workplaces and the workforce itself goes way beyond the location in which staff are doing their jobs.

In this age of growing promises from employers – to be more sustainable, to be more inclusive, to be more understanding – are employees actually recognising discernible differences in their day-to-day experiences?

In attempting to answer exactly that, Workhuman surveyed more than 4,100 full-time employees across the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland. The outcome was its latest ‘Evolution of Work’ 2023 report, the 15th iteration of the company’s annual whitepaper research. 

Hybrid working becomes the norm

Workhuman discovered there was no dramatic difference in terms of the way employees were working throughout 2022, when compared to the equivalent research published a year ago

There was no significant difference between 2021 and 2022 in terms of where people are working. Picture: Workhuman

Overall, slightly more surveyed workers (40%) adopted a hybrid working arrangement, while 11% were fully remote compared to 15% in 2021. 

The biggest change seen across all four aforementioned countries came in Canada, where the proportion of people working on a fully remote basis has declined from 23% to 13%. However, that is still higher than the number working fully remotely in Ireland (9%) and the UK (8%), and the same as the US.  

As one would expect, working arrangements vary significantly by industry. 

On-site work is still by far the primary arrangement in retail, healthcare, manufacturing, education and hospitality, although they have looked to find ways of factoring hybrid work. 

By contrast, banking and finance has a majority hybrid workforce (61%), while a third of the software and services workforce is now entirely remote.

Researchers from Workhuman also sought to understand how much autonomy employees have in their working arrangements. Overall, 66% of respondents said their work arrangement was their preference. Senior leaders (74%) were more likely to work in their preferred arrangement; employees in the early stages of their careers were less likely (57%). 

Remote workers were, by a long way, the most satisfied with their working arrangement (87%), compared to 67% of hybrid workers and three-fifths working fully on-site. 

In fact, despite global economic uncertainty, 22% of employees admitted they would be willing to take a pay cut to keep or obtain their preferred way of working, rising to 28% among LGBTQIA+ employees. 

The main reason workers are looking for a new job is their salary being too low. Picture: Workhuman

Job seeking a ‘trend’ among employees

There has, of course, been widespread coverage of the proportion of workers looking to leave their jobs in search of pastures new in recent years. 

In examining this particular evolution, Workhuman compared its most recent survey responses to data from 2019, when 23% of employees across the four countries were “looking for a new role”.

The latest survey found 37% of respondents were looking for a new job, with a low of 33% in the US and a high of 41% in the UK. While this represents a slight decline from the 38% average seen at the height of the ‘Great Resignation’ in mid-2021, it shows the tendency among workers to look elsewhere is more than simply a phase. 

“The number of employees looking to change jobs is no longer a blip, an aberration, an outlier, or a fluke,” writes the report. “It’s a trend.”

While Workhuman found many workers were willing to prioritise securing their preferred working arrangements over maintaining their level of financial compensation, it seems economic uncertainty was more important in the minds of jobseekers.  

Asked why they were looking for a new role, the number one response by at least 14 percentage points in each country was “my salary is too low.” Both this and “there is no path for career growth at my current organisation” received more responses in every country than a year ago.

US workers feel most ‘psychologically safe’

“We’ve seen it before, and the story continues in every country and across all ways of working in this survey: Employees feel more connected to their colleagues than their organisation’s culture,” Workhuman adds.

In fact, on average around two-thirds of all employees said they felt a sense of connection with colleagues, but just 52% of on-site workers felt connected to their company’s culture. 

Researchers also examined ‘psychological safety’, in other words the feeling of being comfortable at work, by asking surveyed workers the extent to which they agreed with a host of relevant statements.

US workers feel the most psychologically safe. Picture: Workhuman

On a country by country level, workers in the US reported feeling the most psychologically safe. Staff in the UK, where job seeking and fear of job loss are highest, reported feeling the least.

Senior leaders were found to provide the biggest boost to people’s psychological safety, while the opposite could be said of discrimination and fear of losing their jobs. 

Across all four countries, the statement with the lowest agreement on average was “I feel safe to take a risk in this organisation,” which firms looking to innovate over the coming years may find concerning.

Read the full report: The Evolution of Work 2023


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