Will Work Remain Flexible in 2024

Will Work Remain Flexible in 2024? Our Predictions

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world in many ways. The shifting in the relationships between employers, employees, and the work they do has proved to be a lasting change.

Gallup reports that only 20 percent of employees work entirely on-site. That’s down from 60 percent in 2019.

But news reports often highlight companies that are “forcing” employees back into the office. Will flexible work remain available? Maybe you’re wondering how to get a remote job with no experience or stressing over whether you’ll be able to keep the flexible hybrid schedule you’ve come to love. Below, we’ll dive into some data-driven predictions for 2024 and beyond.

The Rise of the Flexitariat

The term “flexitariat” was coined by futurist and writer Julia Hobsbawm to describe the workers who will insist on their right to flexible work—a pun on the proletariat, laborers who, according to Marxism, rise up to take power from their powerful overlords.

Will the flexitariat class of workers really be able to stand up to bosses demanding they return to the office? The so-called Great Resignation provides some insight.

According to Gallagher’s Organizational Wellbeing Report 2023, half of businesses have a turnover or employee churn rate of more than 15 percent, and one in five has a turnover of more than 30 percent.

That means that employers are spending a lot of time, effort, and money assessing, hiring, and training new employees. To staunch the flow, some (if not most) may be willing to make certain concessions to keep current employees. This gives workers leverage to insist on flexible schedules.

Other workers are taking their schedules into their own hands by resigning from “9 to 5” positions to join the gig economy or take on freelance work.

Tech Catches Up

You may recall the steep learning curve when the world suddenly adopted videoconferencing as the go-to way to communicate, or the growing pains associated with trying to find the right collaborative software.

According to Nick Bloom, a remote work researcher at Stanford University, remote work is five times as common as it was in 2019. Bloom further predicts that remote work will rise steeply in 2025 “as the technology finally catches up with employee needs.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) will likely play a major role in this. AI will become more adept at repetitive and administrative tasks, allowing workers to focus on creative tasks, collaboration, and innovation.

It may not be all work and no play when it comes to technology. Many producers are putting effort into “disruptive” tech that is actually fun to use.

Big Business Benefits

Workers aren’t the only ones to benefit from this trend. Some employers were reluctant to continue remote operations when COVID mandates no longer required it; they worried that productivity would diminish. But now, many employers are realizing that remote work reduces office costs and actually improves worker satisfaction and productivity.

Annie Dean, Atlassian’s Vice President of Team Anywhere, remarked, “By the end of 2024, executives will be forced to admit their return to office mandates did not improve productivity.”

When in-person work is necessary, the research and consulting firm Gartner predicts that the focus will be on connection, collaboration, and making the commute feel worthwhile. Companies will need to share in the “tangible and intangible costs of office work,” perhaps by increasing care-giving benefits or offering other meaningful perks.

Changing Language

In the Flex Report, Raj Choudhury of the Harvard Business School predicts that the ways we talk about work will continue to change in 2024.

Of course, over the past half-decade, terms such as remote work, hybrid work, work-from-home (WFH), work-from-anywhere (WFA), digital nomad, side hustle, and gig economy have become a regular part of our vocabulary. Choudhurry asserts, however, that the terms hybrid and remote work will be replaced by “flexible work.” Dean, quoted above, agrees that the focus will shift from where people are based to how they do their work.

Improving Management

Gallup reported that “how employees are managed has about four times as much influence on employee engagement and well-being as their work location.” Studies also found that managers are more likely than other employees to feel burnt out and disengaged. This, in turn, has a trickle-down effect that makes their teams unhappy and lag in performance.

Gartner’s chief of research Peter Aykens stated, “Managers who can effectively navigate and manage interpersonal conflict among employees will have an outsize positive impact on their organizations; the question is how many really feel trained and prepared to do so.” With this in mind, businesses that focus on managerial training will have better-engaged, more productive flexible teams in 2024.

Key Takeaways

Remote work and flexible hybrid schedules are here to stay. Off-site work has increased tremendously in the past five years, from 40 to 80 percent of the workforce. That trend is likely to increase in 2024 and the years to come as employers become more comfortable with remote work and the technologies used continue to improve.

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