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Tug of War rope

According to the latest Future Forum Pulse report Executives are feeling the strain of leading in the ‘new normal’ and their sentiment and work experience scores have precipitously dropped in the last quarter of 2022. This downward trend is present among executives at small and midsize businesses, but it’s even more pronounced among executives at larger “enterprise” organizations of 1,000 plus employees

Executives and team leaders are facing new challenges caused by shifting workplace expectations and norms. 

So what’s driving this decline in experience for leaders? And, what can be done about it?

Executives are Becoming Disillusioned

Executives of companies are reporting a rapidly dwindling Workplace experience and sentiment towards their work. 

As a knock-on effect, executives report a 20% reduction in their work-life balance and 40% are reporting more work-related stress and anxiety. 

Does this resonate with you?

So what is driving this decline in experience for leaders? 

Both executives and team leaders are facing completely new challenges caused by shifting workplace and workforce expectations and the changing world of work. This is primarily because of the difficulty in navigating shifting work models and the changes in the way they and their employees are working. This in turn is resulting in a reduction in their work experience. 

The choices that leaders make and solutions they implement in times of change are important to understand as this drives the experience. However, there is no precedent for the changes we are witnessing and falling back on their past experience and using old and outdated ideas is a recipe for disaster. The workforce is more diverse and their expectations have changed. This, together with the accelerating pace of change, technology and competition means that leaders must change their thinking and potential solutions 

The Office Regression

Whilst executives appear to be embracing the idea of a hybrid working model there are numerous surveys that tell us that executives want to spend more time in the office and less time remotely. Conversely. the opposite is true for the employees. But, it is important to stress that this time that employees are not averse to coming into the office but the reasons have changed. Executives need to tap into the employees' desires around using the office for social connection collaboration and not for face-to-face meetings with their line managers.

In the absence of understanding and new ideas, it is regrettable that many organisations have reverted to type and back to a ‘command and control’ type culture by insisting on a ‘return’ to the office and old ways of working such as those dictated by the likes of Goldman Sachs and more famously Elon Musk.

Forced in-office mandates are designed to limit flexible working and represent a  reversion to the old 9 to 5 office days. It comes as no surprise that this is meeting resistance from employees. This has manifested itself in the “Great Resignation” Executives need to rethink their direction and move forward by engaging employees to establish new ways of working.

Executive Groupthink

Workforce and workplace policy planning is largely happening in the boardroom with 60% of executives saying that they are designing their company's policies with little or no direct input from their employees. 

This closed-shop approach to designing these policies is primarily based on the perspectives of the people who share the same experiences and stressors as the executives. 

Falling prey to groupthink and its resulting confirmation bias means that their own declining experience guides their decision-making around workforce policies that risk alienating their employees and failing in the battle for attraction and retention of talent. 

This myopic and incestuous decision-making risks the health of the organisation and its future. 

Remote Working Strengthens Company Connection and Culture

At either end of the work pattern spectrum, we have either fully remote or fully in-office. But when we refer to hybrid or flexible work patterns we are predominantly talking about one of three models

  1. Trust-based hybrid- The employee has full autonomy to work wherever and whenever they like and productivity is largely based on output or outcomes.
  2. Expectation-based hybrid – the employee is expected to be in the office a certain number of days in a week or month, providing the mandated days are met the timing and scheduling is largely self-determined
  3. Schedule-based hybrid – this is where the organisation allocate specific time slots in a week or a month where the employee is expected to be in the office e.g. Tuesdays Wednesdays and Thursdays.

It is widely recognised now that employees with flexibility in how and when they work show higher scores for productivity, connection and company culture.  

The Future Forum survey conducted in August 2022 showed that remote and hybrid workers are more connected to their direct manager and their company values and that remote work policies were cited as the number one factor that has improved the company culture over the past two years.

Many executives fall foul of the idea that connection and collaboration can only be done face-to-face in an office. 25% of executives surveyed by Future Forum cited that "team culture is negatively impacted by working remotely or working flexibly" a higher priority is placed on FaceTime with management and in-person meetings as a means of developing culture and collaboration

,Despite these concerns, this is not supported by the data. Remote and hybrid workers are equally or more likely to feel connected to their immediate teams as fully in-office workers and almost universally they are more likely to feel connected to their direct manager and their company values.

Embracing Flexibility Increases Productivity

Declining productivity due to flexible work is one of the greatest concerns amongst executives. This again runs counter to the data provided in the Future Forum survey which indicates that flexible work is associated with increased productivity and focus not less.

The data shows that workers with location flexibility report a 4% higher productivity score than fully in-office workers a difference across an organisation that can add up to material improvements to the bottom line.

Workers who work in the trust-based hybrid scenario report 29% higher productivity and a 53% ability to focus better than their co-workers who cannot (or are not allowed to) work to a flexible schedule.

Executive miscalculations about remote worker productivity are directly leading to a return to office mandate which in turn is feeding the ‘Great Resignation’ WHIHC shows no signs of slowing down with the number of workers who say they are likely to look for a new job in the next year rising from 55% to 57%. 

The world has changed and employees want a greater amount of choice and control over how when and where they work.

So, What’s the Solution?

Leaders have the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by providing flexibility more broadly to their workforce. This is not only what the employers want and desire it shows that it leads to stronger business results.

In my previous post Three New Truths about the Modern Office I pointed out that;

Post-pandemic …The advent of hybrid working has meant that companies can achieve substantial cost savings whilst providing a greater and richer workplace experience. This will enable increased talent retention, attraction and collaboration as well as enhanced productivity”.

Higher employee engagement, sentiment, satisfaction and performance are what can be expected if executives are able to provide a greater degree of flexibility leading to greater quality of life, better work-life balance as well as 29% greater productivity and 53 % improved ability to focus.

This boils down to if you show your employees trust they will repay you with that trust and engagement together with productivity.


Greater connectivity and shifting workforce demographics along with a growing demand for equity amongst employees were already in place prior to the pandemic but with the ongoing ‘Great Resignation’ there is a continuing tug of war between executives and employees on the issue of the workplace and flexibility around where when and how employees work.

Executives need to throw their existing playbook in the bin and look to the future in order to devise future ways of working and the Workplace that is required to support it. 

The future of work is flexible, inclusive, and connected and employees are demanding work environments that foster the ability to work together across locations and time zones. 

Those executives who embrace this shift in their workforce expectations by listening to their employees and trusting them whilst remaining transparent and adaptable will shape a more productive and fulfilling future that is better for their people and their businesses.

Are you ready to find out how your workplace scores?

Take our Workplace Experience Assessment

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