Ericsson: flexibility the new work-life currency

Study from Ericsson’s Consumer & IndustryLab reveals how employees and employers navigate the current work environment and their views on the future of work shaped by the pandemic, digitisation and the fluctuating labour market

Having been disrupted massively if not permanently by the pandemic, the way in which people spend their work hours is evolving rapidly.

According to a report from Ericsson Consumer & IndustryLab, employees predict flexibility as a future employment need as hybrid work continues to be the norm, with as many as a quarter of the global working population indicating they will prioritise flexibility above all else.

The future of work life study was carried out during 2022 within 30 markets globally, spanning 38,000 online surveys of employees plus 3,600 online surveys of decision-makers and 11 in-depth interviews with decision-makers from selected industries within China, Spain and the US.

The report examined how employees and employers navigate the current work environment and their views on the future of work shaped by the pandemic, digitisation and the fluctuating labour market. Its underlying message was that work has changed and will continue to change, with flexibility being the new work-life currency.

Almost half (48%) of the employees in the study said that they enjoy increased flexibility at work. Just over half (52%) considered flexible work hours or locations as key requirements, and 25% said that flexibility is the top priority if they looked for a new job. Doing work rather than going to work was seen as central in this new way of thinking about work life.

As businesses deploy more ICT applications to support flexibility, the report warned that digital friction – the additional work needed to use data or technology – was becoming a bigger issue for employees. The friction caused by context switching and toggling tools to search for data and collaboration was seen to be hindering productivity gains.

Ericsson warned that when work was fragmented among various unconnected tools, there was a risk that employees will become stressed and inefficient and that they will duplicate tasks and information. It said already 40% of employees were seen to be struggling with overlapping technology and tools that were too complex to use or have too many unnecessary features.

On a brighter note, decision-makers believed fast connectivity and business agility went hand in hand. Over half of them said faster connectivity would improve their business agility. Ericsson said focusing on this increased connectivity can lead to employee and customer experience advantages as decision-makers understand that this will boost internal collaboration and customer experience.

In a call to action, Ericsson reminded employers of need to embrace digitisation and flexible workforce management. It said this could be done by creating a workplace that supports human collaboration, simplifies work and values employee input in decision-making. The report also suggested that employers must also consider how, where and when employees collaborate in a digital culture. What are their needs in terms of connectivity, devices, and interaction? And how can equity be fostered between on site and remote workers?

“Based on our research, it is quite clear that the future of work is going to be increasingly dependent on ICT solutions such as high-speed, globally available mobile connectivity,” said Anders Erlandsson, head of Ericsson IndustryLab. “We felt the pandemic could finally be seen in the rear-view mirror, and therefore wanted to take a closer look at what changes in people’s work life had stuck, and what was only a temporary adjustment.”

Remote work is clearly here to stay – maybe not exactly at the level as was measured during the pandemic, but still at significantly higher levels than before the pandemic,” added Jasmeet Singh Sethi, head of Ericsson ConsumerLab.

“Amidst the rapid digitisation brought on by the pandemic, our research highlights a concerning gap between the technology available in the workplace and the needs of employees for flexible working.

“With six in 10 companies lacking relevant technology for their staff, and just two in 10 employees feeling they have the relevant tools, there is a pressing need for organisations to invest in digital tools and robust connectivity that enable remote collaboration and flexibility, not only to attract and retain top talent, but to stay competitive in the post-pandemic world.”

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