What Do Your Employees Expect from Their Future Workplace?

Corporate leaders and their employees aren’t always on the same page when it comes to the future of work—particularly in the areas of flexibility and mobility.

As we emerged from the pandemic, it appeared the future of work would continue to be wholly remote for quite some time. But with most of us back at work in-person at least part of the time now, it turns out that initial assessment was incorrect.

Sometimes corporate leaders’ idea of what the future of work will look doesn’t jive with that of their employees. Monster conducted a survey recently to learn what employees, rather than corporate leaders, expect from the future of work 30 years from now. Here are a few highlights:

Shoddy Wages, But Retirement Still a Reality

There was pessimism about compensation, with 62 percent of workers reporting they think wages in comparison to the cost of living will worsen.

However, there was optimism that I don’t necessarily share. Some 18 percent expect to retire at or before the age of 60. Just 28 percent expect to work beyond the age of 70.

If you think about it, these findings, when put together, do not make sense. If wages compared to the cost of living are expected to worsen, why does such a small percentage expect to work beyond the age of 70? If wages are not keeping up with the cost of living, how would that be possible for most people?

Flexible Work Schedule and Opportunity to Change Jobs Multiple Times

Despite most office workers being back in-person for at least a few days per week, only 12 percent of survey respondents reported that they think the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. corporate work schedule will remain commonplace.

There is also an expectation for career mobility, with 48 percent expecting to work for two to three companies.

Responding to These Expectations

The back-to-the-office movement has not consistently played out happily—as far as I can see. There has been ample push-back, which I have witnessed myself. That makes me think too many organizations are fighting employees’ anticipation of the future of work, rather than optimizing those expectations.

If a large percentage of employees don’t want to be in an in-person work environment, and they proved during the pandemic that they don’t need to be, what is the value of forcing them?

Companies could look at employees’ expectations for greater flexibility with their schedule as connected to a desire to be freed from the limitations of working in a specific place at a specific time. Looking at it that way would enable a company to justify sharply downsizing office space. The significantly smaller physical office space could remain in a favorable location. The idea would be to use it solely for meetings and special events.

When important business partners are in town, for example, the company could use the office space to host them, or if a critical deal or merger is being finalized, representatives from the companies, along with their lawyers and other team members, could use the office space.

What the office space would NOT be used for is people coming in on a regular schedule two to three days per week with assigned workstations and offices.

Retaining Employees Who Expect to Change Jobs Frequently

I don’t like changing jobs, to the point that I have stayed in jobs for as long as 13-plus years! However, the results of this survey suggest that many people expect to change jobs much more frequently. That means your organization will have to take employees’ desire for mobility into account.

At yearly performance reviews, conversations about the employee’s desire for their future career progression become more important. What can their manager and your Learning team do to lessen the chances they will jump to a job at another company? For some people, like me, it will mean keeping stress and surprise challenges to a minimum. For others, it will mean just the opposite—keeping them on their toes so they get the stimulation they require.

With employees’ vision of the future work world likely different from that of many of your top executives, helping them individualized career plans has never been more important. Equally important: playing to employees’ desire for flexibility in where and how they work, rather than fighting against it with unwanted strictures.

What is your organization doing to gauge your own employees’ expectations for the future of work? Are you making changes to meet them at least halfway?