What employees are saying about the future of remote work

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As organizations look to the postpandemic future, many are planning a hybrid virtual model that combines remote work with time in the office. This sensible decision follows solid productivity increases during the pandemic.

But while productivity may have gone up, many employees report feeling anxious and burned out. Unless leaders address the sources of employee anxiety, pandemic-style productivity gains may prove unsustainable in the future.1Reimagining the postpandemic workforce,” McKinsey Quarterly, July 7, 2020. That’s because anxiety is known to reduce job satisfaction, negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues, and decrease work performance.

Our survey results make the source of anxiety clear: employees feel they’ve yet to hear enough about their employers’ plans for post-COVID-19 working arrangements. Organizations may have announced a general intent to embrace hybrid virtual work going forward, but too few of them, employees say, have shared detailed guidelines, policies, expectations, and approaches. And the lack of remote-relevant specifics is leaving employees anxious.

The secrets to hybrid work success: what employees are saying


A McKinsey Live event on ‘Getting hybrid work right: What employees are saying’

As organizational leaders chart the path toward the postpandemic world, they need to communicate more frequently with their employees—even if their plans have yet to solidify fully. Organizations that have articulated more specific policies and approaches for the future workplace have seen employee well-being and productivity rise.

The following charts examine our survey findings and shed light on what employees want from the future of work.

Organizations with clearer communication are seeing benefits to employee well-being and productivity.
Most organizations have not clearly communicated a vision for postpandemic work.
Individuals who are not being communicated to are feeling anxious about the future.
Almost half of all employees report being at least somewhat burned out—and that's likely an underrepresentation of the real number.
Individuals wo are feeling anxious due to a lack of organizational communication about the future are more likely to feel burned out.
Most employees would prefer a more flexible working model after the pandemic is over.
Going back to a fully on-site model might have significant talent implications.
The majority of employees would like to work from home at least three days per week in the future.
Employees with young children are more likely to prefer primarily remote working models.
Employee hopes and fears for the future reflect a focus on flexibility, well-being, and compensation.
Employees are most interested in collaboration, connectivity, training, and technology policies.
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