What New Research Is Saying About Today’s Workplace Models

It’s been more than two years since the pandemic shifted the way we work, and researchers are now offering deeper insights about what’s changed. Remote work is temporarily moderating wage growth and may increase diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, some workers—particularly Gen Z—want more in-office presence.

With the world of work having forever changed with the pandemic, association leaders are trying to find the right fit for their organization. But the right fit likely depends on a number of factors, including the characteristics of the employees at your workplace.

Researchers have been studying new workplace modalities and have released a variety of findings that can guide associations still fleshing out remote and hybrid work policies.

Remote Work Moderates Wages

The appetite for remote work among knowledge workers is high, according to the July 2022 Future Forum Pulse Summer Snapshot [PDF]. “The number of knowledge workers who want to be in the office full-time dropped to 20 percent, the lowest point in two years of surveying,” the report said.

The research also found that remote workers were more likely to be satisfied with their flexibility (39 percent), work environment (35.4 percent), and work-life balance (33.2 percent) than those who worked in their employer’s office. In-office workers had the lowest satisfaction for flexibility (18.1 percent), work environment (21.6 percent), and work-life balance (17.1 percent). Hybrid workers fell in the middle.

The higher experience scores for remote work are keeping wage growth low, even in a period of high inflation, according to a July 2022 working paper [PDF] from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Although inflation often leads to increased wages, some employers are offering more remote work due to its high “amenity value” rather than raising salaries, the researchers note.

“Thirty-eight percent of firms expanded remote-work opportunities over the past year to moderate wage growth pressures, and 41 percent expect to do so in the coming year,” the report says.

However, don’t think that liberal remote work policies will give you a pass on raising wages long-term. “The wage-growth restraint effect is a transition phenomenon that operates as compensation packages adjust to higher remote-work levels,” the report says. At the point remote work becomes more normative, workers will expect higher wages, so associations should be prepared.

DEI Efforts Likely to Improve

Meta, the rebranded company that owns Facebook, Instagram, and other social networking platforms, last month released its 2022 Diversity Report, showing that diversity in its workforce skyrocketed with the increase in remote work. In the past, Facebook has been criticized heavily for its lack of diversity.

The recent report, however, notes that “U.S. candidates who accepted remote job offers were substantially more likely to be Black, Hispanic, Native American, Alaskan Native, Pacific Islander, veterans, and/or people with disabilities.”

While Meta has taken other steps to increase diversity, its expansion of remote work opportunities helped it reach its 2024 goals two years early by broadening the pool of talent available.

In a related finding, the Future Forum study revealed that underrepresented groups had a stronger preference for remote work than other workers. “Flexible work policies are foundational to a company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion priorities,” the report said.

Young Employees Want In-Person Training

Despite the strong appeal of remote work for many employees, Generation Z—whose workers are 16 to 25 years old—is not here for it.

According to the National Society of High School Scholars Career Interest Survey [PDF], only 23 percent of 11,495 high school and college students polled said the ability to work remotely was important to them. Sixty-three percent said they expect in-person workplace training. Generation Z also wants a variety of perks from employers, including help paying off student loans, tuition reimbursement for post-graduate degrees, and mentoring programs.

While remote work wasn’t high on students’ priority list, 61 percent said they wanted a good work-life balance, and 37 percent wanted a flexible work schedule.

The overall message from all this research is that today’s workers are different: Some love remote work and some don’t. The key for associations’ future workforce strategy is to figure out how to help each employee work in the mode that’s best for them. That may mean having an office that’s available for all employees but not requiring that they come in, except for occasional events and team building.

What are your most pressing concerns related to workplace structure moving forward? How are you addressing them? Please share in the comments.

(asbe/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!