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The New World of Work Is Transforming the Old Social Contracts

 

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Despite the many fears about the viability of remote and hybrid work models (the latter referring to situations where people work from home at least some of the time), a new global survey has found that organizations in all industries and regions mustered significant levels of resilience and mettle and have risen to the challenge beyond almost everyone’s expectations.

Organizational cultures are thriving, and, in some cases, doing better than they did before the pandemic, according to the survey conducted by MIT SMR Connections and sponsored by Webex by Cisco. Corporate leaders are getting the highest marks for modeling new behaviors and making change happen. This success is breeding significant levels of confidence in management and a new social contract that features unexpected amenability around contentious issues of what the world of work should look like.

The survey’s 1,561 respondents range from corporate directors and C-level executives to supervisors, managers, and individual contributors. They work in organizations of all sizes, represent a variety of industries, and are based throughout the world.

The study’s key findings are:

  • Assumptions about corporate culture relying on employees physically working together aren’t borne out. In fact, the survey results indicate that remote work improves corporate culture. A vast majority of respondents say camaraderie, closeness to the organization, and feelings of inclusion and diversity have improved, or at least stayed the same, since the pandemic began. This includes both those who worked remotely full-time and in offices full-time prior to the pandemic.
  • Corporate leadership gets applause. Company leaders have been intentional about corporate culture issues related to successful remote and hybrid work environments. These include modeling empathy, work-life balance, and encouraging candid discussions. Significant majorities of respondents rate performance on these behaviors very highly. In other words: Leadership, not location, accelerates feelings of belonging.
  • A rise of trust in those same leaders is spurring a new social contract for work. Hybrid work is reshaping the Great Resignation into a Great Renegotiation. People want more choice about where they work, as opposed to increased compensation or additional perks. A majority of respondents believe that working from home should be a benefit and not a given. Moreover, they strongly agree that compensation should be based on the cost of living where employees reside rather than on their roles. Only a minority believe that companies should reimburse remote and hybrid workers for expenses they incur for items such as new equipment, furniture, and better internet connections.

This report delves into the specifics behind these findings. It also looks at differences — or, more often, lack of differences — between generations, sizes of companies, industry sectors, remote versus in-office employees, and to what extent remote and hybrid work has affected introverted versus extroverted individuals.

The report concludes with advice on how to avoid backsliding from these impressive and hard-won gains. The fault lines are visible, and organizations should make sure they don’t get caught in them.

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