The traditional 9-to-5, suited-up office worker spending their days in a cubicle farm – that image is quickly fading into history. Full-time in-office work is dying, and the stake is being driven through its heart by the most innovative companies leading the future of business.
Small But Mighty
As we see in Scoop’s illuminating Q3 Flex Index report, smaller companies are leading the charge away from mandated office presence. An astonishing 76% of companies with under 500 employees now offer full work location flexibility or have gone fully remote.
And it’s not just in obvious fields like tech. Even excluding the tech industry, 59% of firms with under 500 staff have embraced flexible or remote work.
These statistics reveal a major shift in how the most agile, disruptive small businesses view office work compared to lumbering corporate giants. The flexible firms of today with just hundreds of staff are positioned to become the Amazons and Googles of tomorrow.
Just look at some examples. Fintech disruptors like Stripe and Chime have grown explosively while allowing remote work from the start. And Warby Parker shook up the eyewear industry with an innovative flexible model.
The most innovative thinkers recognize rigid office mandates cost money, hamper agility, and repel top talent. Offering work location flexibility allows small firms to punch above their weight – moving fast, running lean, and attracting the best.
As these scrappy companies grow from hundreds to thousands of staff, they ingrain flexibility into their culture. The data makes clear that full-time office work is dying – and the stake is being driven through its heart by the most disruptive small businesses destined to dominate the future.
The Hard Facts and Stats
The Q3 Flex Index data reveals clearly how work location flexibility is skyrocketing at these small but mighty companies – and provides a glimpse of the future of business:
- 93% of companies founded after 2010 offer work location flexibility
- 85% of non-tech firms started after 2010 offer flexibility
- 76% of companies under 500 employees are fully flexible
Compare those numbers to the 39% of all companies currently requiring full-time in-office work. The gap is massive – and illustrates the coming shift as today’s leading startups disrupt whole industries.
Within 10 to 15 years, the report says to expect only 15% or fewer companies to require full-time office work. Those dinosaurs will be left behind by the flexible, remote-friendly firms leading the charge – which started small just years ago.
It’s Not Just Tech – Flexibility Is Cross-Industry
Critics may argue this shift is only happening in the technology industry. But the data disproves that critique.
Yes, 97% of tech companies allow location flexibility – the highest of any sector. But other industries are not far behind:
- Media & Entertainment – 91% offer flexibility
- Insurance – 89%
- Professional Services – 85%
- Financial Services – 83%
Clearly, work location flexibility is no longer a tech-only phenomenon. Trailblazing startups across sectors recognize the benefits. Talent and innovation thrive when people can work how and where they want.
What Does This Mean for Big Corporations?
The statistics paint a scary picture for old-school, rigid corporations. Today’s scrappy startups embracing flexible work are positioned to dominate the future across industries.
Consider how Amazon disrupted retail, Google search, Facebook social media, and Tesla automotive. In 10 years, the leading disruptors will be today’s tiny startups – and remote or flexible work will be baked into their culture.
Legacy corporations requiring full-time office presence will face a choice. Adapt to compete for talent with flexible rivals? Or watch their best people flee to smaller firms with better policies?
Clinging to antiquated notions of in-person work may please a few out-of-touch executives. But the data shows this failed strategy will prove to be the downfall of once-powerful corporations.
No Turning Back the Tide
Some observers continually predict a wave of employees will be called back to the office – especially after holidays like Labor Day. But it simply hasn’t happened over the past few years. Office occupancy rates have barely budged.
Why? For one, employee desires are clear. Surveys show they only want to work in the office 2 days per week on average. And hot young companies are aligned with these wishes – offering flexibility to attract talent and cut costs.
Secondly, the data shows even the average employer only wants people in the office 2.5 days a week – not too far off the 2 days desired by staff. Mandating more days than that would mean losing talent to flexible rivals.
So this equilibrium of 2-3 partly in-office days per week satisfies employee wants and business needs. With neither side pushing for a major change, the flexible work revolution will continue marching forward – led from the front by the Paypals, Ubers and Airbnbs of tomorrow.
Commercial Real Estate – In For a Shock
For a sector based around crowded offices, these trends spell trouble.
On one hand, the hybrid model adopted by large corporations props up demand – but only to around 50% of prepandemic levels. On the other hand, small innovative companies are abandoning offices and embracing remote work.
This pincer movement threatens to crush old-fashioned commercial real estate firms between the rock of partial office work and the hard place of full remote flexibility. Occupancy rates show no sign of budging higher.
And the flexible work revolution is just getting started. As the next generation of firms grow, they will force change at the dinosaurs clinging to rigid in-office traditions.
Within 10 to 15 years, expect only 15% or fewer companies to require full-time office work. For real estate tied to packed offices – that is a terrifying prospect.
Seize the Future
The data shows clearly where the working world is headed. The companies dictating the future are embracing flexible work models to attract talent and stay nimble. That’s what I tell the 5-10 leaders who call me every week to discuss their company’s policies toward flexible work.
While some sectors like manufacturing and healthcare still require on-site work, any desk job role can be done successfully with a mix of office and remote or fully virtual work. And even manufacturing and healthcare have plenty of opportunities for offering flexibility for back-office staff.
Whether an employer, employee or commercial real estate investor, it is time to accept that full-time in-office work is dying. The companies adopting flexible practices will lead the future.
Those who fail to adapt to this new world will surely be left behind.
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Image credit: Rebrand Cities/Pexels
Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on June 20, 2023
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/.