The Slow Death of the Desk Job

A new study, titled Death of the Desk Job based on a survey of 1,700 North American full-time employees in order to understand how the traditional workday is changing based on employee preferences — finds 70 percent would leave their job for one that offers more workday flexibility, including the ability to work remotely more often.

The study also found 55 percent of employees have more flexible work hours than they did two or three years ago. In addition, 75 percent of employees said they’re able to keep more family, social and personal commitments because they can remotely access work anytime they need.

Technology has made it easier than ever for employees to stay connected to the workplace anytime, anywhere and, as a result, employees increasingly enjoy more flexibility over their schedules, says David MacDonald, president and CEO at Softchoice, which commissioned the survey.

“We found most people really value the freedom to customize their workday – to be able to run an errand, schedule an appointment, or pick up their kids from school, and catch up on work when it suits them. Organizations that enable that kind of flexibility have become highly desirable places to work.”

Additional highlights from the study include:

•Employees don’t think their desk, or even their office, is where they do their best work: 62 percent of employees believe they’re more productive working outside the office.

•The 9-to-5 workday is passé: 61 percent of employees prefer working the equivalent of an eight hour workday broken up over a longer day, rather than in a single 9-to-5 block.

•Out of Office Alert! Has technology made us too accessible? 57 percent of employees work remotely on personal or sick days, and 44 percent of employees worked on their last vacation.

•Most organizations are enabling a mobile workforce, but not governing one: 59 percent of employees receive a device from their employer for work in and out the office, however, just 24 percent of organizations have set clear policies and expectations around appropriate work activities after business hours.

“Though many organizations enable remote work by issuing corporate devices, technology alone isn’t enough to fulfill evolving employee needs,” MacDonald says. “Not everyone has the same definition of work/life balance, so it’s up to the employer to set clear expectations around acceptable work activities beyond business hours.”

Given the scope of this survey and prior research on this topic, it’s clear that today’s (and, most likely, tomorrow’s) employees are looking for more novel ways to be productive workers while not actually at work between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Employers should take note and help them find those new ways to work.  It’s a win-win.