Remote and hybrid work has made its mark on workers and workplaces. However, the models of work have introduced greater complications beyond simply managing flexibility.
Many knowledge workers, those who work primarily on a computer, are now working overtime to try and get their efforts recognized.
54% of workers told digital work platform Qatalog and GitLab that they feel pressure to show colleagues and managers that they are online and being productive.
To better understand how employees communicate and work, Qatalog partnered with GitLab and surveyed 1,000 knowledge workers in the US, as well as 1,000 in the UK.
The findings uncovered glaring inequalities in the ways senior leaders approach work compared to lower and mid-level knowledge workers.
Working longer for work’s sake
On average, employees claim that they work an extra 67 minutes per day because of a desire to be seen working. This presenteeism is impacting businesses.
This extra time on looking busy amounts to more than five hours extra every week. Interestingly, the cause for many (63%) is the belief that senior leadership within their organization prefers a traditional culture with employees in the office.
On top of that, over half (54%) are trapped in old habits which is making them struggle not to respond immediately and make the shift to the staggered responses associated with asynchronous communication.
The issue with this presentism is that most people (81%) claim they work more effectively and produce better outcomes when they have flexibility in their working hours.
Asynchronous working for the few
Although asynchronous discussion is being encouraged by many organizations, only 33% of respondents told Gitlab and Qatalog that they were working with this kind of flexibly.
Evidently, presenteeism and a desire to be seen to be always working is impacting how staff approach work.
This perception is not universal though; in fact, senior staff have adapted to asynchronous work. 74% of the C-suite work asynchronously always or often, and 48% at the VP or director level do the same.
As we go down the ladder, so does the number of people who work flexibly. 32% of consultants or managers work asynchronously, compared to just 24% of analysts or administrative staff.
“It felt counterintuitive, as one might assume those working asynchronously are able to do so because they have freed themselves from the pressures of presenteeism.”
Flexible work for all
Speaking about expectations workers face and the state of flexibility, Darren Murph, head of remote at GitLab, explains to UNLEASH: “We’ve entered a new era for knowledge work — one where a highly individualized experience is now expected.
“Flexibility on when work happens is becoming the new standard for employers.”
Murph reasoned that the pandemic has been a key factor in this change: “What surprised me was how quickly the pressure point changed. Pre-pandemic, commuting workers felt pressure on their time in different ways.
“Their wake time was inflexible, their lunch period was inflexible, and their personal life was forced to fit around the confines of set working hours. The pressure of time remains, but now the burden has shifted from individual to employer.”
This is because “top talent are proving that they do better work and live more fulfilling lives when they’re more in control of their time”, according to Murph.
As a result, “It’s not enough for an employer to merely realize this truth; it must rearchitect its tool stack, its culture, and the very management philosophy on which it is built in order to effectively decouple business results from linear time”.
Murph believes that employers will need to effectively launch flexible working models going forward. Particularly as flexibility becomes an appealing factor to candidates.
Signs of flexibility being important to workers were evident in the GitLab/Qatalog study with 66% stating that they would leave their job if limited flexibility was offer. In addition, 43% said that they would consider a lower-paid role if they were given greater flexibility in return.
Although it is difficult to make workers feel comfortable with asynchronous work, Qatalog’s Rauf offered his advice: “If there’s one lesson companies can take from this, it’s that you need to be intentional if you want asynchronous to work, and put structures in place that support it.
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