Is flexible working reducing spiking burnout?

Future Forum, a research consortium launched by Slack on the future of work, has released its latest global study of over 10,000 knowledge workers, revealing that burnout cases have spiked to their highest levels since 2021.

Future Forum, a consortium launched by Slack with founding partners Boston Consulting Group, MillerKnoll, and MLT focused on building a way of working that is flexible, inclusive, and connected, today released key findings from its latest global Pulse survey, showing that flexible work plays a key role in fostering organizational culture and has a significant positive impact on productivity. Flexible workers were 57% more likely to say that their company culture has improved over the past two years compared with those required to be on-site five days a week—and they cited flexible work policies as the primary reason their culture is changing for the better.

The Future Forum Pulse is a quarterly survey of more than 10,000 desk workers in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K. that has continuously run since summer 2020. The data reveals that employees with full schedule flexibility report 39% higher productivity scores than those with no ability to adjust their working hours. Employees with location flexibility (both remote and hybrid workers) report 8% higher productivity scores than those fully in-office—gains that can meaningfully accelerate work across a business. 

“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. The data shows offering flexibility not only boosts productivity and decreases turnover, but it also improves culture,” said Brian Elliott, the executive leader of Future Forum. “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.”

This winter snapshot of Future Forum’s latest Pulse survey answers top-of-mind questions that business leaders are asking as they navigate an ever-changing workplace and look to implement flexible work strategies that enable all employees to thrive. 

Flexibility Builds Strong Organizational Cultures
Although 25% of executives cite “culture is negatively impacted” as a top concern in offering employees more flexibility, flexible work policies—not only in where, but also when people work—are highly effective in deepening company culture, a continuing trend from last quarter.

How connected do employees feel to their companies and organizations?
Compared to the 35% of workers who are fully in-office, flexible workers are equally or more likely to feel connected to their immediate teams, their direct manager and their company’s values. 

What motivates people to want to come into the office?
The office remains an important anchor for employees, but the primary purpose of office space is shifting. Many employees no longer see the office as a place for solo work. Today a majority of workers want to use the office to foster connection:

  • 74% say they use the office for collaborating with co-workers/clients, building camaraderie, and facilitating in-person meetings 
  • 15% say they use the office for having a quiet space to focus on getting work done

Two-thirds of employees (67%) say they prefer a hybrid working arrangement, with the option to access a physical space. 

Flexibility is a Key Driver for Productivity
Executives continue to cite declining productivity as their second most serious concern when contemplating flexible work. And yet, flexible work continues to be associated with higher productivity, with the greatest gains among workers with schedule flexibility, which is the ability to adjust one’s working hours.

How does schedule flexibility affect business results?
When compared with workers with no ability to shift their schedules, respondents with full schedule flexibility report: 

  • 39% higher productivity
  • 64% greater ability to focus

Meanwhile, a lack of schedule flexibility dramatically worsens retention. Employees with immovable work schedules say they are 2.5 times more likely to “definitely” look for a new job in the next year.

Flexibility Counters Spiking Burnout Trends
Burnout remains a critical issue in the workplace. Forty-two percent of the workforce reports experiencing burnout—an all-time high since May 2021, when Future Forum started measuring this strain. Respondents who report that they are burned out at work are 3.4 times more likely to say they “definitely” plan to look for a new job in the next year than those who say they are not burned out. Women and workers under age 30 are the most likely to experience burnout.

How does access to flexibility affect burnout?

  • Employees who are burned out at work report 23% lower productivity than those who are not burned out 
  • 53% of those who are dissatisfied with their level of flexibility at work say they are burned out compared with 37% of employees who are satisfied
  • Employees with no ability to shift their work schedules are 26% more likely to say they’re burned out

Underinvestment in technology can also aggravate burnout levels. Workers who perceive their companies to be “digital laggards” are 31% more likely to report feeling burned out at work than those who say the companies they work for are innovators. 

This Future Forum Pulse surveyed 10,243 workers in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. between November 16 and December 22, 2022. The survey was administered by Qualtrics and did not target Slack employees or customers. Respondents were all desk workers, defined as employed full-time (30 or more hours per week) and either having one of the roles listed below or saying they “work with data, analyze information or think creatively”: executive management (e.g. president/partner, CEO, CFO, C-suite), senior management (e.g. executive VP, senior VP), middle management (e.g. department/group manager, VP), junior management (e.g. manager, team leader), senior staff (i.e. non-management), skilled office worker (e.g. analyst, graphic designer). For brevity, we refer to the survey population as “desk-based” or “desk workers.”

The Future Forum Pulse measures how desk workers feel about their working lives on a five-point scale (from “very poor” to “very good”) across eight dimensions on an index from -60 (most negative) to +60 (most positive).

Future Forum Pulse report

    Read more

    Latest News

    Read More

    Menopause in the workplace – the hidden cost

    4 December 2023


    Receive the latest HR news and strategic content

    Please note, as per the GDPR Legislation, we need to ensure you are ‘Opted In’ to receive updates from ‘theHRDIRECTOR’. We will NEVER sell, rent, share or give away your data to third parties. We only use it to send information about our products and updates within the HR space To see our Privacy Policy – click here

    Latest HR Jobs

    Job Description Are you a highly skilled and experienced Control Manager looking for your next career move? Do you have solid financial service experience in

    Job Description Are you a highly skilled and experienced Control Manager looking for your next career move? Do you have solid financial service experience in

    Job Description Are you a highly skilled and experienced Control Manager looking for your next career move? Do you have solid financial service experience in

    Company Shop Group, part of Biffa, is the largest commercial redistributor of surplus food and household products in the UK, enabling some of the biggest…From

    Read the latest digital issue of theHRDIRECTOR for FREE

    Read the latest digital issue of theHRDIRECTOR for FREE