New Research Guides Employers Towards Flexible Future, Four-Day Work Weeks

Achievers report shows workers want flexibility, but forced hybrid work models miss the mark on bolstering employee retention and engagement

Toronto, ON, February 7, 2023— In response to employees’ demands for flexibility, more than half of HR leaders surveyed are on board for the four-day work week, according to the 2023 Engagement and Retention Report from Achievers Workforce Institute (AWI). AWI is the research and insights arm of Achievers, the global leader in employee voice and recognition solutions.

The research, conducted in November 2022, found that 51% of HR leaders surveyed either had already implemented a four-day work week (9%) or were considering it (42%). This varied around the world, from 57% in the USA to 38% in Australia.

“HR leaders are not making this decision in a vacuum,” says AWI Chief Workforce Scientist Dr. Natalie Baumgartner. “Work flexibility has become incredibly important to employees in the last few years. For the first time in the six years that we have been doing this research, work flexibility is the number one reason to job hunt in 2023, equal with career progression.”

Hybrid ≠ flexibility
Many organizations have compromised with employees, offering hybrid work where employees work some days in the office and some days at home. However, AWI finds that when hybrid is dictated by company policy, rather than employee choice, it can cause unforeseen negative consequences for workers in terms of engagement and retention. In fact, workers who self-identified as hybrid are less likely to say they are engaged and are more likely to plan to job hunt in 2023 compared to other types of workers.

“After being forced to support employees working from home due to COVID-19, many employers have seen the tail end of the pandemic as an opportunity to return to 2019 business practices. Employees who have benefited from remote work are asking for flexibility, leading to business leaders offering hybrid work such as three days in the office and two days at home,” Baumgartner adds. “This is a limited view of flexibility. Many employees still feel they are not in control of how and when they work, leading some hybrid workers to look for other options.”

Flexibility as practice, not place
As HR leaders struggle to determine the best work model for their workforce, AWI data shows that they should not rule out hybrid entirely, as some hybrid workers are more engaged and less likely to job hunt. However, the key determining factor for hybrid success is empowering employees to choose how they like to work. Workers who say they can work in the way they prefer are more than twice as likely to be highly engaged and are 22% more likely to say they will not job hunt in 2023.

This data point reveals that the key to retaining talent is to embrace flexibility as a practice. Organizations that view flexibility as a way of supporting employees in living full lives and meeting all their personal and professional responsibilities, will implement policies that balance true flexibility with employee wants and needs.

Achievers, under the leadership of Chief People and Culture Officer Hannah Yardley and her HR team, is using AWI research to guide their policies and practices to develop a persona-based approach to flexibility.

Achievers employees can choose from one of four personas that determine their work habits:

  1. In-Office: Local employee that spends most days in the office
  2. Hybrid: Local employee that works in the office for two plus days a week, with the flexibility to work remotely the rest of the week
  3. Remote by Choice: Local employee that spends most days at home but will come to the office for organizational and team events
  4. Remote: Long-distance employee that is 100 percent remote and rarely or never comes to the office for team events

“Not everyone defines flexibility in the same way, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Plus, as HR leaders know, we need structure in place to help us make decisions about our workforce and workplace,” said Yardley. “Achievers’ latest Pulse survey showed that our employees appreciate that the control is in their hands in terms of where and when they work. This approach has built measurably greater trust in company leadership among our employees.”

Ending the remote debate
Previous AWI research showed that half of HR leaders surveyed felt their company’s C-suite did not recognize that the world of work had changed. This resistance to remote work and flexibility, in general, has led some companies to push back against remote work, insisting that everyone must work from the office every day. One of the driving concerns behind these policies is that remote workers are less productive, engaged, and committed to the companies they work for.

The 2023 Engagement and Retention Report negates this concern, showing that remote workers are equally engaged and are, in fact, less likely to be job hunting in 2023 compared to onsite and hybrid workers. This figure should come as compelling evidence for business leaders on the fence about remote work to stop punishing employees that prefer this way of working.

About the Study
The survey of 5006 respondents from Australia, Canada, Singapore, UK, and USA was conducted in November 2022 and included almost 1400 HR leaders. View more information about the 2022 HR Preparedness Report and additional data on trends in Australia, Singapore, Canada, UK, and USA.

About Achievers
Achievers partners with hundreds of organizations around the world to elevate their engagement and retention strategies through our employee voice, recognition, and connection solutions.
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