The Way We Work

Hoping to better understand the realities of modern work, Flex+Strategy Group / Work+Life Fit conducted a national survey about the true nature of employees’ work flexibility.

What they found echoes earlier studies about those who have remote or flexible work arrangements: they’re not who you think they are.

The survey found that:

Flex+Strategy Group: "More Women Put in Hours at the Office and in Cubes While More Men Telework"

Infographic by Flex+Strategy Group

  • They’re not women: 3 out of 4 remote workers are men.
  • They’re not parents: there was no difference between those with or without kids.
  • They’re not Millenials: the findings were consistent across age groups.
  • 42% of employees who work primarily in an office space (versus working remotely) felt they had less work flexibility this year than last.
  • They reported a fear that using their work/life flexibility “might hurt your career/others think you don’t work as hard.”
  • 47% of remote workers received training work/life flexibility, while just 35% of those working in a more traditional environment did.

Not surprisingly, the survey also found that companies that don’t understand or embrace this new workplace reality have a harder time benefiting from their remote talent.

“This has been a rapid change, and organizations have not caught up,” Cali Williams Yost, founder at Flex+Strategy Group, told BloombergTV. “But also, we as individuals have not caught up. It’s a new set of skills and tools we need to be successful, and we’re not getting them. We also found that most people don’t get any training or guidance.”

Perspectives shape successful remote work policies

The demographics of distributed workers may seem irrelevant, but stereotypes about them can actually undermine the validity of remote work.

According to the study’s authors, when companies view teleworking as a courtesy offered to mothers or a response to demands from Millennials, they are less likely to fully embrace the cultural shift towards a more open office — hindering their remote employees’ ability to contribute to the business as a whole.

The report argues that work flexibility should be viewed as a solution to the distractions and lack of focus that can be characteristic of an overcrowded open office space, rather than as a compromise for “lazy” employees. Encouraging people to speak up about how and when they’re most productive can help both the worker and the company.

The study also emphasizes the importance of training and support for individuals working outside the office. With modern technology, the logistics of teleworking are easier than ever—all that’s needed are managers and employees who’ve been shown how to do it successfully.

oDesk’s blog has many articles dedicated to that very topic, including how to run a virtual meeting like a rockstar, how to communicate shared values within remote teams, and our own study on the future of online work.

What strategies does your team do to support working remotely? Share the practices that have worked for you in the comments section below.

Liz Dantzker

Marketing Coordinator at Upwork

Liz Dantzker is a marketing coordinator for Upwork, working in many facets of the department and learning as much as she can. She recently graduated from the Colorado College with a BA in psychology. She loves California but still misses the Rocky Mountains!