The Future of Remote Work: Employees Choose WFH Over Bonuses

In a new era of the hybrid workplace, employers and employees continue to debate the future of remote work. We interviewed tech workers to find out what’s next for the office.

A girl with brown curly hair, wearing glasses is using a laptop and smiling. Above her the phrase "the future is flexible".

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In a new era of the hybrid workplace, employers and employees continue to debate the future of remote work. Employees are seeing the benefits of having flexible working hours, and passing over extra cash to stay remote. That’s a big deal. 

And it makes one thing clear: employers are adjusting both hiring processes and compensation benefits to attract top global talent.

Some companies have fully embraced this change, and others have insisted that employees return to the office, fearing that company culture will break down without in-person interactions.

Is it an unnecessary worry? 

We interviewed 575 tech workers to find out what’s next for the office and company culture, and understand how their work lives have changed. 

What Employees Are Saying About the Future of Remote Work 

As we enter the first industrial revolution from home, where work is more creative, flexible, and free, we asked employees questions on how the following have evolved:

  • productivity
  • returning to the office
  • working 40 hours a week
  • benefit and perks
  • networking and bonding IRL
  • team building

On Productivity 

The key to unlocking high-output teams is understanding how company culture affects productivity. Many workers have engineered their work life for optimal productivity, side hustles, and family time, which is why 80% of the employees we surveyed feel more productive at home than in the office.

At home, workers feel more comfortable and creative, and they can escape the usual office distractions. So it’s easier to stay on track and get their work done. 

But they’re split on whether or not their own teams work more effectively in-person or in a remote setting: 

  • 39% said remote was more effective
  • 31% said in-person was better 
  • 28% said a combo of the two was better
Worklife Inside Scoop: See how Anne Raimondi (COO at Asana) and Rajiv Ayyangar (CEO of Tandem) are structuring their teams for the future of work

On Returning to the Office

How badly do workers want to return to the office? Not very.

  • 47% said they’d rather jump ship than go back to the office full time
  • 62% said they’d choose working from home over a $3,000 bonus just to go into the office
  • 44% of workers thought their company was too involved regarding where and when they worked

Workers feel that their companies don’t trust them. Micromanaging has become common, and turnover is high. This is no surprise at Worklife. We’ve heard a lot about the Great Resignation: millions of people leaving their jobs to find new ones that fit their lifestyles.

Apple tried to bring employees back into the workplace, but quickly received a letter from over 1,000 employees saying the idea was “inefficient, inflexible and a waste of time.” The idea of returning back to the office in-person impacted key hires like Apple’s former machine learning director Ian Goodfellow, who left his role shortly after the announcement. 

“I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,”said Goodfellow.

The workplace community is changing; companies and individuals are adapting to change in ways similar to what their businesses were like pre-pandemic. They’re rethinking their offices, missions, and cultures to give employees the right balance of flexibility and workplace community.

On Working 40 Hours a Week

Since the pandemic and the start of work from home, priorities have shifted. Workers realized how much time they could get back if they didn't have to get ready to go into an office. Now, the 40-hour work week is called into question—both for in-office workers and remote workers. 

The biggest reasons workers oppose a 40-hour work week in the office are: 

  • 54% said that commuting takes too long and eats into their day 
  • 39% said that working remotely allows them more time with their families and friends
  • 37% would rather have control over their schedule and set their hours themselves 

They’re also embracing the four day work week

This is an infographic asking tech workers if they think their companies would be better off with a 4-day-work week.
Credit: Future of Work Report

It’s clear that many are ditching the 9 to 5 in favor of flexible working hours. To retain and hire top talent, employers need to be intentional and focus on their people. The modern career landscape is more dynamic than ever, and open-minded employers are prioritizing freedom and creativity over an outdated definition of productivity.

On Benefits and Perks

As you hire world-class talent, your talent expects world-class compensation, benefits, and perks. Though the world has changed, comp in tech has remained pretty much the same: a standard salary, a bonus, stock options, and paid holidays. 

That is changing. Workers want employers to play a more active role in helping them with their personal goals. Here’s what they shared:

  • 49% said paid holidays were a priority
  • 45% said profit sharing was the most important 
  • 42% said mental health benefits were key
  • 24% said fertility care was critical 

Compensation is a complex topic, but it shouldn’t be. Companies like Keep Financial are empowering companies to provide a flexible vesting cash bonus incentive to their employees, so they can choose exactly how to allocate their total reward. 

On Networking and Bonding IRL

A cold email and a coffee can change your life. Bonding with your coworkers can too. 54% miss the friendships that are built in the office. 

To help with meeting more people, some are tapping into their established network to connect with others: 

  • 48% are reaching out to others they know to meet more people 
  • 38% are heading to in-person industry events 

But 22% aren’t networking as much as before. 

Networking as we knew it is dead. In fact, I tell new grads that “networking” in tech is almost always a bad thing, because you’ll just meet recruiters and people trying to sell you things.

The people who can make your career are busy building. So what can you do? Meet people with shared interests. Here are some of the tools I recommend:

  • Heylo to find groups outside of work (i.e. run clubs)
  • Polywork to find people to collaborate on creative projects (i.e. podcast, newsletter, design project)
  • ‍Deskpass to find a cool co-working space nearby. We suggest starting with Deskpass before committing to a co-working space because each place has a different vibe

Building Social Connections While Working Remotely 

In an office, coworkers can communicate in many ways:

  • Quick desk chats
  • Impromptu meetings
  • Waving at each other in the hallway
  • Getting lunch in the break room 

A lot of these social interactions are gone when working remotely, impacting company culture through lack of personal and social connection.

Without these spaces, workers will feel isolated, lose creativity, and lose ideas that could turn into great features and products. Some of my best ideas came from a walk with a friend, not from a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Currently, 50% of workers have felt more lonely since going remote. Having a strong workplace community is not something that companies can toss aside. Many are redesigning how to build that sense of community without a physical space. Incoming examples below:

  1. FlowClub
  2. Candor
  3. Mmhmm

FlowClub: Rethinking Workplace Connection

Startups like FlowClub offer a unique way to develop social connections while working in high-intensity sprints, helping manage the downsides of working remotely. Once members sign up, they can join and host remote co-working sessions that let them share their goals and keep on track.

With their scheduled co-working sessions, FlowClub helps maintain workplace connections, productivity, and can even boost your motivation to produce better work.   

Candor: Rethinking How People Work

Most companies don’t have info and data on employees’ work styles. Both parties enter blind to how the employee works and the existing culture of the team. And with remote work becoming the new norm, it’s hard to build trust without understanding how you communicate.

Candor is capturing this information and helping job seekers and teams create the ultimate “working with me doc.” Candor is a new professional networking site that helps workers share how they work, built by employee feedback. 

Mmhmm: Rethinking Video Collaboration

Tired of Zoom calls and hearing one person talk for a long time? So are we. Mmhmm is a free-form video space that helps teams share ideas in a creative way.

It turns your boring Zoom/Google Meet call into a weekend update-style TV show, making it fun for your team to collab and share their best ideas. 

Codi: Choose-Your-Own Adventure Hybrid Workplace

46% of people in our survey miss the change of environment you get when working in-person.

Codi is connecting people with workspaces in private homes without the traditional long commute. 

From working at a San Francisco Victorian house to a loft in Manhattan, companies like TaskRabbit are renting work hubs from Codi because they offer all your typical office perks: strong Wi-Fi, monitors, coffee, whiteboards, and more. 

If you have a fully remote or hybrid team, Codi offers flexible leases to companies, so that employees have the option to work elsewhere, but without their traditional long commute. 

Future of Remote Work: Tips to Build Team Connection and Optimize for Deep Work

So how can employers embrace remote work? To navigate wellbeing, remote work, burnout, and productivity, I’ve compiled what some CEOs and operators have implemented to avoid a stale remote company culture:

  1. How to welcome new employees and manage them remotely
  2. How to build trust and meaningful connections at work
  3. How to avoid creative burnout
  4. How to optimize for deep work

How to Welcome New Employees and Manage Them Remotely

Most employers spend a great amount of time, resources, and equity to hire someone new, and then almost entirely, miss to properly onboard their employees and bring them up to speed. Don’t make this mistake.

Welcoming new employees properly and ensuring you nail how to manage them require more attention, time, and energy than you give to hiring.

Take Cameo for example. They’re making sure their remote company culture isn’t lame. Before the pandemic, they had what most millenial start-up trappings have: a ping pong table, kombucha, free lunch, and celebs being spotted in the office. Of course, things have changed.

Cameo’s Head of People Melanie Steinbech started with making sure that:

  1. Managers were properly trained to manage people they’ve never met IRL
  2. Setting up internal comms that worked
  3. Redesigning the onboarding experience
  4. Personalizing the comp and benefits package
  5. Creating opportunities for team interactions

Cameo wants to make everyone feel like a celeb, so they roll out the red carpet for them. Every new employee that joins gets:

  • A full office set-up (in advance of starting)
  • Swag (in advance of starting)
  • A personalized Cameo from a celeb
  • A few welcome Cameos from team members 

In just a few years, we’ll see more of Gen Z in the workplace – they’ll be about 30% of the workforce. And they won’t settle for anything less than flexibility and the option to work remotely when they want to. 

With this in mind, a great welcome and intro can make a big difference. “Casual introductions to other team members can make all the difference in feeling able to reach out to people later on,” Brooke Rosin said. Rosin is a PR Account Executive who entered the workforce in the middle of the pandemic.

Screenshot of instagram post of girl enjoying a drink
Rosin, a PR Account Executive, who was affected by the changes in hiring during the pandemic

How to Build Trust and Meaningful Connections at Work

Social connections at work are powerful in creating trust. There are several ways to do so:

Worklife Tip: Setting Time to Get to Know Each Other

Buffer’s Head of People Nicole Miller has been building high output remote cultures for years. It’s in Buffer’s DNA as the company has been fully remote for the last decade.

The team is now setting up dedicated time for coworkers to intentionally get to know each other by:

  1. Setting up TED-style lunch and learn talks among teammates
  2. Sharing fun things in a dedicated water cooler channel on Slack
  3. Doing a personality test to get to know each others’ work styles and traits
Worklife Tip: Have Your Leadership Team Host Open Meetings

“It struck me [that open meetings] can foster a really high trust culture,” said Anne Raimondi, COO at Asana and previously CCO at Gusto. When Gusto decided to host open office hours, team members felt a bit guilty, but then these open meetings became the best conversations the team had. Employees felt heard, and that input led to impact at work.

How to Avoid Burnout in the Workplace

Low pay, no opportunities for advancement, and disrespect are the main reasons why people are burning out, the Pew Research Center reports. To avoid it, employers are addressing burnout by:

  1. Providing stress management interventions
  2. Engaging employees   
  3. Implementing transparent performance management cycles
  4. Encouraging hobbies outside of work
  5. Assisting employees to reach their personal goals
  6. Offering therapy and career coaching
We chatted with Arianna Huffington on The Great Global Employee Burnout. Read the discussion here.

How to Optimize for Deep Work

“I need time to focus,” is a phrase that has probably crossed your mind. You are not alone. Context switching in a remote work setting is hard, because you’re getting pinged 24/7.

Prioritizing time effectively to get stuff done is critical for any employee.

Before I had a team, I had to take fewer meetings and learn from the sidelines to optimize for deep work. This allowed me to have time to do things that would help the fund go to the next level. Other tips  I have include:

  1. No meeting days or take few fewer calls
  2. Blocking dedicated time on your call to focus
  3. Setting up do not disturb hours/days
  4. Respecting virtual cues
  5. Prioritize high-impact work

So What’s Next for the Future of Remote Work?

It’s clear that employees want more flexibility when it comes to hours and benefits. But don’t forget that building a high-output team in a hybrid or remote environment means you’ll need to create an environment where you put people’s priorities first.

This means ample room for creativity and change about what the future of work can look like.

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