Can flex work help address employee burnout?

Flexibility results in better connectedness, improved productivity, better focus

Can flex work help address employee burnout?

The number of workers experiencing burnout has risen through the past year, according to a recent report.

Globally, 42% of workers were burnt out in November 2022, up from 38% in May 2021, found Future Forum, a consortium launched by Slack.

And this trend is also a reality in different countries during the same period:

  • up to 50% from 42% in Australia
  • up to 48% from 43% in France
  • up to 48% from 40% in the UK
  • up to 41% from 39% in the U.S.
  • up to 37% from 29% in Germany
  • up to 27% from 26% in Japan

And flexibility is a major factor in the scenario. Specifically, 53% of those who are dissatisfied with their level of flexibility said they are burned out, compared to 37% of employees who are satisfied with their level of flexibility. 

Also, employees with no ability to shift their schedules are 26% more likely to say they are burned out at work than those with moderate schedule flexibility.

Nearly all (97%) of 18-34-year-olds are burned out, according to a previous report from Cigna.

And 86% of human resources professionals worry about the consequences that the economic situation may bring to employees’ lives, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Connected, productivity

Work flexibility also seems to be improving workplace culture, found Future Forum’s report based on a survey of 10,243 workers across the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K., conducted from Nov. 16 to Dec. 22, 2022.

Remote and hybrid workers are 57% more likely to say their company culture has improved over the past two years, and flexible work policies in the top factor behind that improvement, according to the report.

More flex workers also say they feel very connected with their company values (32%) and their direct manager (39%) compared with fully in-office worker (28% and 34%, respectively).

Employees with schedule flexibility also reported 49% higher productivity and 64% greater ability to focus. 

Meanwhile, desk workers who say they have little to no ability to set their hours report 4.6 times worse work-related stress and anxiety, and 2.6 times worse work-life balance.

A huge majority of workers want flexibility in where (81%) and when (93%) they work, according to the report. 

Despite these, 25% of executives surveyed cited “team culture is negatively impacted” as a number one concern about offering employees more flexibility in an office.

“In the midst of economic uncertainty and a push to ‘return’ to how things were in 2019, it is critical for leaders to figure out what works best for their teams today,” said Brian Elliott, the executive leader of Future Forum. “The data shows offering flexibility not only boosts productivity and decreases turnover, but it also improves culture. Giving employees choice in their day-to-day work while coming together in person with purpose is a highly effective way to drive employee connection and build trust.”

There are a lot of reasons why flexibility is important, said Morag Lynagh, global Future of Work director at Unilever, and Patrick Hull, vice-president for global learning and Future of Work, Unilever, in a piece for the World Economic Forum.

“With the increased desire for and expectation of flexibility, having a culture that truly caters to this need is essential for securing and retaining access to the best talent and to having an engaged workforce.

“But more than this, having the ability to resource flexibly, i.e. having access to known talent and skills that can be flexed up and down and deployed to priority work as required, is allowing us, and others in the corporate world, to be simpler, faster and more agile and to change the balance between fixed and variable costs.”

Four in 10 hybrid working companies will try to undo anywhere work and fail – with 49% of leaders expected to dramatically alter their return-to-office approach this year, according to a recent report.

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