HR Management, Strategic HR

The Future of Work: Meeting Employee Expectations with Flexibility and Accessibility

A new Paychex research report analyzed how an increasingly multigenerational workforce, advancements in technology, and the evolving preferences of today’s workers are changing the workplace of today and setting the course for the future of work.

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The future of work is here, and it’s reshaping virtually every aspect of how, when, and where we work. One common thread in this evolution is flexibility. From scheduling and paid time off (PTO) to working remotely to pay frequency, employees are looking for options that veer from the traditional 8-hours-a-day, 5-day workweek, with 10 days of PTO and a paycheck every other Friday. That expectation of convenience extends to the area of HR and the tools companies use to share information with employees. Employees want the mobility and independence of their personal lives to appear in their workplaces, as well. If employers want to hire and retain top talent, they must meet those employee expectations of flexibility and accessibility.

Generational Shifts

The report reveals that in the past decade, the generational makeup of the workforce underwent a dramatic evolution. Since 2009, a new generation joined the workforce (Generation Z), Millennials took over as the largest generation in the workplace, and Baby Boomers began to exit the workforce as they reached retirement age.

Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce (currently at 39.5%). Generation X is the next-largest generational segment in the workplace (30.5%), followed by Baby Boomers (21.6%) and then Generation Z (7.1%). With four generations currently participating in the working world, 83% of employees say that working cross-generationally has positively impacted their work experience. According to workers, as a result of these generational shifts, their employers have made changes such as:

  • Switching to a more casual dress code (24%)
  • Offering more flexible scheduling options (20%)
  • Upgrading to more flexible/collaborative/open-concept work spaces (15%)
  • Allowing employees to work remotely (14%)

Advancements in Technology

The mobile-centric preferences of Millennial and Generation Z workers have influenced the tools their employers use to connect. Today, the number of employees using a desktop computer exclusively to manage HR tasks has dropped to 51% (from 74% 5 years ago), and the number of employees using both desktop and mobile solutions has jumped to 43% (from 14%).

Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are also making waves in the workforce. Nearly one-third of employees (31%) say that an aspect of their job that was once done manually is now done through AI/machine automation. And the trend is expected to continue: 33% of Generation Z, 32% of Millennials, 29% of Generation X, and 20% of Baby Boomers think that manual aspects of their current job will be done through AI or machine automation in the next 5 years.

Evolving Worker Preferences

When asked what their ideal work schedule would look like, 73% of employees would prefer some form of flexible scheduling (a compressed workweek, unique hours based on personal circumstance, or total flexibility as long as job responsibilities are met). However, only 51% of employees currently have a flexible schedule option, while 49% have a set schedule.

Employees expressed a similar desire for more choices when asked about where they prefer to work: 31% of employees select the traditional option of working at the office each day, while 58% would prefer to work from home some or all of the time.

Some changes are quicker to implement than others when it comes to adapting for the future of work, but all employers should evaluate if their schedule, workplace design, PTO and flex time, etc., are working for their current workforce and potential recruits—and if not, how can policies be changed so that they work for both employees and employers? Employers should also assess how well their current HR solution is facilitating self-service. Effective self-service tools are essential to engaging employees and creating a productive, efficient atmosphere around HR.

The report cited in this article is based on payroll and HR data of a subset of Paychex small business clients with 1–49 employees and survey responses from more than 500 U.S. workers. The full report can be downloaded at paychex.com/future-work.

Frank Fiorille is the vice president of risk management, compliance, and data analytics at Paychex. Fiorille currently serves as one of the chief stewards of risk for the company, and he leads the implementation of all aspects of the risk function, including processes, tools, and systems to identify, assess, measure, manage, monitor, and report risks. In addition to his overall risk management responsibilities and heading the compliance and data science functions, he oversees the government relations and operating risk functions for Paychex. Fiorille joined Paychex in 2002, bringing with him several years of experience from previous risk management leadership roles at Citigroup and PNC Bank.