Whilst on the train recently, on the way to VMware’s office in London, I had the time to reflect on my personal productivity in my role as Chief Technologist for VMware’s End User Computing group. Was I more productive at home, did I get more done whilst in the office, or maybe on the train as I was writing this piece? Then I thought about other roles who may potentially not be able to make that comparison due to the very nature of needing to be physically there... for instance a retail assistant in a local shop?
With that in mind and continuing a tradition over the last few years, VMware recently surveyed 5,300 people globally on workplace models and discovered an interesting dichotomy: while 82% of employees say they have higher job satisfaction when working in a remote or hybrid model, many business leaders still believe the office is the best place for innovation to occur. In fact, 66% said that their organisation is more innovative when employees are physically present in the office. This statistical dilemma has been coined a “Zero-Sum conundrum” on account of the fact an employee’s working location preference may be in direct opposition to a business leaders’ belief surrounding what is optimal for productivity. This begs the question: is it possible for businesses to foster innovation while also providing employees with the ability to work flexibly? Is this a result of different ways to comparing productivity and or a difference in opinion between leaders and the people in their organisations?
Working from anywhere, innovating everywhere
The answer may be yes. Our research found that organisations with hybrid or remote-working policies were more likely to have formal metrics in place to track the impact of flexible working on innovation and productivity. In fact, nearly all organisations with an “anywhere work” policy (97%) have metrics in place to monitor innovation levels, compared to just 83% of those with an office-only policy. This finding contradicts the belief of many business leaders that the office is the sole hot bed of innovation.
In addition, when looking at the survey results, we discover that businesses with hybrid working policies are more likely to invest in automation and digital tools to improve the employee experience and increase productivity. This indicates that these businesses prioritise innovation and productivity without sacrificing flexibility in working location. Further, it asserts the importance of hybrid working and the key, unique benefits it reaps.
Hybrid work: a perfect blend of productivity and perks?
So, what are the crucial benefits of hybrid working that may contribute to higher job satisfaction? For one, hybrid working allows employees to have more control over their work environment and schedule. This can lead to a better work-life balance, potentially boosting employee satisfaction and productivity. Moreover, hybrid working can help businesses maintain the potential innovative benefits of office working while simultaneously providing greater business resilience and flexibility. For instance, in the event of natural disasters, emergencies, or disruptions, employees can opt to work remotely to keep the workflow of the business uninterrupted. Hybrid working can also significantly improve corporate excellence by providing businesses access to a wider pool of talent. By offering flexible work options, businesses can attract and retain top employees from a wider geographic area, leveraging access to the skills and expertise necessary to flourish.
Although this ‘Zero-Sum Conundrum’ may stipulate a possibility of tension between the preferences of employees and the beliefs of business leaders when it comes to the most optimal location for innovation, it comes down to balance. Striking the right balance between employee preferences and business priorities in order to foster a culture of innovation and productivity. Flexible working thus arises as a solution with soaring potential to achieve this desired equilibrium.
Returning to my opening thoughts on whether I am more productive in one location or another in my role… as in all things these days, the answer remains dependent on a multitude of factors… time, type of project, or perhaps the work I’m doing – the old adage of ‘there is no single answer to this question’ rings true. From a technological perspective, I think we need to make sure technology does not inhibit an organisation’s, or their people’s, ability to choose which working model makes the most sense for them.