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Top Workplaces: This Year's Trends

May 01, 2024 06:28AM ● By Greg Barnett

Companies continue to move away from remote-oriented work, new data by the Top Workplaces Research Lab shows.

It’s the latest in evolving workplace changes that began four years ago. Many companies were thrust by Covid into an unknown world of communicating, collaborating, and executing in a remote world. 

As time has passed, companies have grappled with finding the right work mix for their needs. With 2023 behind us, now is a good time to evaluate current models to understand what’s happening across the broader workplace landscape. Energage, an employee survey research company, examined Workplace Survey data from more than 2 million employees at over 6,000 organizations in the last two years, and its Research Lab uncovered some clear and undeniable facts and trends. 

Research Lab data shows that at the beginning of 2022, there was an 18 percentage point gap between employees working mostly remote and employees working mostly on-site. While the gap seems sizable, it’s important to remember that several industries, such as hospitality and retail, can’t offer remote work options outside corporate support roles. But as we progress from Q1 of 2022 to Q4 of 2023, the gap widens significantly, with a 44-point gap emerging between mostly or fully remote employees versus those who are mostly or fully on-site. 

In addition, the number of employees in a hybrid work situation remains stable. This suggests that the fully on-site to fully remote gap has increased because more companies are switching from fully remote to fully on-site rather than a hybrid arrangement. We also are slowly seeing companies move their employees into a hybrid arrangement that involves more days on-site than remote. 

Global trends paint an intriguing picture, suggesting that remote work is gradually losing its popularity, which is a trend many expect. The industry data captured by the survey question about work location provides a better understanding of where on-site, hybrid, and remote structures are most popular. 

The short answer? There are no industries where fully remote work is the predominant work arrangement. Instead, we see almost an even split where nine industries are predominantly fully on-site, whereas eight are predominantly hybrid. The distribution isn’t even close in some industries, such as education. Yet in others, such as life science, there are nearly equal employees in fully on-site and hybrid work situations.  

Looking at organizations that took the Energage Workplace Survey in 2023, the results show that fully remote and hybrid employees are significantly more engaged than fully on-site employees. This data partially reflects the nature of industries that don’t permit hybrid work, such as education, where historically, employee engagement tends to be lower. However, when people have the flexibility to work remotely, their engagement tends to increase.

When looking at the core statements of the Energage Workplace Survey, we found no areas where fully on-site work environments are rated more highly than hybrid or fully remote. 

What we did find, however, are certain areas where the experience gap is bigger. Fully remote employee ratings are 14 percentage points more positive for work-life flexibility and 10 percentage points higher on meeting quality, perceived open-mindedness, and feeling clued-In about the information needed to do the job. 

In contrast, aspects of effective execution, feelings that work has meaning, and formal training are closer to fully on-site ratings. Even though the ratings are still higher for fully remote and hybrid workers, these will tend to be areas where leaders will express concern. Namely, remote employees are less connected to the broader company mission (e.g., the meaningfulness), not learning and growing as they should be, and their physical distance from others hurts execution efficiency. 

Greg Barnett, Ph.D., is chief people scientist at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is the survey partner for Top Workplaces.

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