60% would move job to keep ‘Working From Home’

Between 2010 and 2020, the number of people working from home at least 50% of the week rose by just 0.2% per year, peaking at under 5%.

That became almost 50% overnight on 23rd March 2020 as the first Covid lockdown took effect. 

Media, (Social and Mainstream), was quickly filled with tales of farcical multitasking, home-schooling hysteria, working from bedrooms, Zoom call fatigue and children interrupting high-profile video interviews.

12 months later, sentiment is as different as the we world we currently find ourselves living in.

The average number of speculative CVs we receive each week has increased 4-fold; the two biggest reasons cited being the desire to dramatically reduce their commute (once commuting becomes a thing again), or even more so, those who don’t want to go back to the 9-5 ‘in the office’ life. 

So I put the question out. “Would you move jobs to avoid 5 days/wk in an office?”. The result was surprising. Almost 60% said they would. 45% would move jobs to gain/keep 2 or 3 days per week, 14% would move jobs if it meant 5 days a week from home.

Another 32% wouldn’t consider moving jobs, but would prefer flexibility, with just under 10% being happy with 5 days/week in the office.

So I dug a little deeper. Perhaps more tellingly, those numbers increase by 15-20% for Millennials and Gen-Z, with only 3% of under 30s saying they would be happy with 5 days per week in the office, and over 80% saying flexibility was more important than salary and second only to career prospects/development. Tomorrow’s execs will not be craving their corner office, unless it is at home (read more on that HERE).

But the move to home working has been a win for employers too. Home-workers did 55% more unpaid over-time and were 68% more likely to work after 6pm, especially amongst the higher paid (earning over £75,000/yr)….who interestingly also took longer breaks (often to home-school) and started work later in the day than ‘normal’. The average hours worked per day increased by 1hr 28mins (almost directly offsetting the average saved commuting time of 1hr 22mins). Additionally, across all home-workers, businesses also reported that sick-leave dropped by over 70%

As for the breakdown within those home workers, regional variations did play a part, workers in London & the South-East being most likely to change their working location/flexibility; Scotland and Northern Ireland being the least likely (the North-West being in the bottom quartile).

Those working in Financial Services, Professional Services and IT/Telco were, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most likely to work from home with 69% working from home more than half the time contrasting with just 11% of white-collar workers within food/logistics/retail.

But the long-term adoption of flexible working is far from universal. Surprisingly, Apple, Google and even Zoom have been some of the first of the large global brands to announce that it’s employees must return to their offices for at least the bulk of the working week – surprising as those are the three of the businesses that have arguably most benefitted and facilitated the remote working shift.

Apple CEO Tim Cook emailed his entire workforce on Jun 2 requesting they all return to the office on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from September, with teams that need to collaborate further being asked to return 5 days per week. “For all that we’ve been able to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: each other” his message to his wider team, with the added message that all employees can have an additional (manager approved) 2 weeks per year working from home to “be closer to family and loved ones, find a change of scenery, manage unexpected travel, or a different reason all your own”.

It took just 2 days for Apple employees to write an open letter to their leader, requesting “a flexible approach where those who want to work remote can do so”. The letter strikes a direct tone:

We would like to take the opportunity to communicate a growing concern among our colleagues. That Apple’s remote/location-flexible work policy, and the communication around it, have already forced some of our colleagues to quit. Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple.”

The full letter, pasted below, ends “This is not a petition, though it may resemble one. This is a plea: let’s work together to truly welcome everyone forward.” Notable that tomorrow’s execs seek a collaborative voice and earned respect, rather the militant/unionised threat seen by their forebears in the 70s.

Facebook conversely have announced that ‘Remote working is the future’, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg telling all employees they are able to work from home, pending manager approval. He also offers the option to employees to move working location for personal reasons, US employees able to apply to relocate to Canada; European employees to the UK. Those who do return to the primary office will still be able to work from home for up to 50% of the time… 

Notably, Facebook have not had the employee revolt seen by Apple (or Google, which saw CEO Sundar Pichai to reverse his stricter 2020 directive for an office-centric return in favour of more relaxed approach which will see 20% work from home and 20% flex their location). They have seen an increase is job applications though.

Hybrid working is this month’s buzz word….which just means flexible working, some days in the office/some days out of the office – but as employers are quickly prophesying, the logistics behind facilitating such a move are more complicated. As one client commented “with free choice, everyone will just want Friday out of the office”. Another quipping “I’m not running a 200 person office of qualified professionals via a pub-style shift/rota”. Even the most ardent Chief People Officers I know speak of a ‘cultural hand-grenade’ that would ensue by trying to bring the cultures of remote and in-person working together.

But a flexed solution will need to be found if 90% of people want a lither working solution; especially if 60% of people would go as far as to move jobs to (re)gain flexible or home working.

…and the glacial return to some form of office life has only served to fuel that sentiment. I get daily tales of contacts that travel for an hour or two for a short 30min meeting, only to travel an hour or two back. 10yrs ago that was de rigueur. Now it’s enough to cause a revolt.

It’s also enough to gain Government attention with last week’s admission by Michael Gove that the Cabinet Office was considering giving millions of workers a default right to work at home, requiring company bosses to provide good reason why office attendance was required.

Work culture has leapt forward 10-20yrs and employees have had a taste of that future and the benefits it brings. 

A recent YouGov survey showed that 90% of business leaders agreed that employment innovation was critical today, ….but only 21% felt they had the expertise, resources and commitment to innovate!

Apple Employee’s Letter:

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