New attitudes about remote work and flexibility are poised to be an enduring legacy of the pandemic. According to a joint study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network, eighty-nine percent of people said their preference in the future will be for a job that allows them to work from home at least occasionally.
“People got a taste of remote work during the pandemic, and it has completely changed their expectations,” said Rainer Strack, one of the authors of the study and a senior partner at BCG. “It sends a very clear message that nine out of ten people want some aspects of this to be sustained. Employers can’t treat working from home as an occasional perk anymore.”
The new report, Decoding Global Ways of Working, is the second in a series of publications about the pandemic’s impact on worker preferences and expectations. Data reflects the opinions of 209,000 participants in 190 countries.
Most people prefer a hybrid model, with two or three days a week from home and the rest in the office, according to the study. And it isn’t just those in digital, knowledge, and office jobs—many of whom are already working remotely—who want more workplace flexibility on a permanent basis. Even study participants who have jobs that require the handling of physical goods, or contact with clients, expressed a desire for setups that would allow them to work remotely at least occasionally.
“It would be surprising if priorities didn’t change, given the economic and existential crisis everyone has experienced,” said Ana López Gobernado, international operations director of The Network and one of the report’s authors. “During a pandemic, people are happy to just have a job and a stable income. At the same time, relationships and a balanced life still matter. Employers need to ensure that these softer needs are met even in virtual work settings.”
It is indeed flexibility that most people are interested in, not a 180-degree turn in the traditional model that would have everyone working from home all the time and never going to a physical work location. Only a relatively small proportion of workers—one in four—would switch to a completely remote model if they could.
An Emphasis on Near-Term Benefits
Apart from work location and work practices, the survey also identified some shifts in what people value at work. In BCG and The Network’s last study on global talent, in 2018, respondents said that they expected their jobs to provide them with a mix of both short- and long-term benefits. The short-term benefits that were most important in 2018—good relationships with colleagues and managers and a good work-life balance—still top the list today. And another short term-benefit—pay—has joined them as a priority. Long-term benefits like career development and skills training have faded.