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Why is your boss more excited than you are about going back to the office?

The latest Future Forum survey finds that flexibility is a competitive advantage but executives want to go back to the old ways.

Image: iStock/poike

It’s hard to imagine a bigger disconnect between two groups of work colleagues. Executives can’t wait to get back to the office. Meanwhile 75% of employees want to stay remote. Slack’s research group Future Forum surveyed 10,000 knowledge workers in its latest Pulse survey. 

Executives are nearly three times more likely than employees to want to return to the office full-time. On teams that are still fully remote, the divide is even bigger: 44% of executives in this group want to be back in the office full time, compared to only 17% of employees who are excited about that schedule.

Brian Elliott, executive leader of the Future Forum, said in a press release that companies must bridge this gap to attract and retain top talent.

“While executives are banging down the door to get back to their corner offices, non-executive employees are demanding flexibility in where and when they work,” he said. “The view of the office looks different from the top.”

SEE: 7 attitude adjustments managers must make to succeed in a hybrid office plan

The report pinpointed one reason for this disconnect: executives have much higher job satisfaction than employees (+62%). Also over the past quarter, executives reported a 3% increase in overall satisfaction with the working environment , while employee satisfaction dropped 5%. This comes as some offices reopen and people spend more time with in-person work. 

According to the report, male executives report the highest scores for most experience indicators, including “sense of belonging,” “level of access to resources,” “ability to focus on work” and “overall satisfaction with the working environment.”

To solve this disconnect, the Future Forum recommends embracing flexibility in work location and work hours, measuring outcomes over inputs and building connections through transparent communication.

The connection between remote work and inclusion

One striking finding from the report is that remote work has significantly improved the work experience for Black employees. In the latest survey, 76% of Black knowledge workers said they value relationships with co-workers. That’s up from only 48% this time last year. Also, the number of Black survey respondents reporting that they feel more fairly treated at work is up too: 73% now as compared to 47% a year ago. In the report, Dr. Ella Washington, an organizational psychologist, said that going virtual levels the playing field by increasing transparency and overall communication. That’s going to make anybody feel more

like they belong, especially folks that are not usually in those conversations, she said.

Transparency is an illusion 

The Future Forum survey reinforced what an EY survey found: employers are finalizing return-to-office plans but not keeping employees in the loop. Future Form found that 86% of employers are finishing “post-pandemic” but 66% of executives say there is little to no direct input from employees about these plans.

HR experts have advised over communicating during this time of uncertainty and frequent change, but that tactic is not in wide use, according to the survey. Sixty-six percent of executives describe the company’s post pandemic policies as very transparent, but only 42% of employees agree. When it comes to sharing new developments that affect the company, 81% of executives said company leadership is transparent but only 58% of employees agree.

These findings reinforce a mid-year report from the Future Forum that recommended rethinking behavior and mindset changes, not just figuring out “how many days a week employees are expected to come into the office or a narrow focus on real estate strategy.”

This disconnect is only one factor driving the Great Resignation with 57% of knowledge workers thinking about starting a job search in the next year.

This Future Forum Pulse surveyed 10,569 knowledge workers in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. between July 28 to August 10, 2021. 

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