The Future of Work Report - How Britons work relationships have changed
According to the Oxford Dictionary, work is the “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.” But unless you’re a hermit, we rarely work completely in a vacuum, completely disconnected from other people. We have colleagues and bosses, we have clients and people that depend on us and our work in a way or the other. Jobs always involve some kind of interaction, how have these interactions & relationships changed in the past two years?
The market research institute Appinio conducted a representative survey (by age and gender) of 2,000 people in full- and part-time jobs across the United Kingdom. The "Future of Work '' report shows how Britons have been working in the past years and how their work relationships have changed.
Home office: flexibility at the expenses of communication
Working remotely has revolutionised the way we work. For nine out of ten respondents (88%), the best by-product of the home office is the added flexibility in everyday life. But also a newly conquered feeling of independence (87%) and a better work-life balance (84%). Working from home sounds like the best of the possible working worlds.
Unfortunately, there are some downsides as well.
Collaboration and communications with colleagues has become difficult and clunky. According to a third of UK respondents (31%) this is the area most heavily affected by remote work, and collaboration with colleagues has worsened in the past years.
The lack of informal social interaction, like bumping into each other in the hallway, chatting while getting something to drink from the kitchen, was the most mentioned reason why the relationship has worsened (63%). But also a lack of proper professional interaction (47%) has been indicated as heightening the problem. The situation has worsened also regarding communication with superiors (26%).
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BFF: Boss-friend forever?
Can employees be friends with their bosses?
This is indeed a complex question and it relies heavily on how the people involved in this interaction (bosses and employees) see each other and their roles in the company and in general, in the workplace.
But there has been a lot of interesting research on leadership style and how different leadership styles affect employees and how they work. Let’s take a moment to deep dive into the styles the Appinio Future of Work Report has tested.
- Bosses with a cooperative style (also known as democratic/participative style) value group discussions, provide all information to the team when making decisions, promote a work environment where everyone shares their ideas, and are good at mediation.
- Bosses with an appreciative style (known also as servant) focus on motivating the team, have excellent communication skills, personally care about the team and commit to growing the team professionally.
- Bosses with a trusting approach (known also as coaching) offer guidance instead of giving commands, value learning as a way of growing, ask guided questions, balance relaying knowledge and helping others find it themselves.
- Result-oriented bosses (also known as pacesetters) set a high bar, focus on goals, seem slow to praise, will jump in to hit goals if needed and (no surprise here) value performance over soft skills.
- Laissez-faire bosses delegate, provide sufficient resources and tools, will take control if needed, offer constructive criticism, foster leadership qualities in your team and in general, promote an autonomous work environment
- Authoritarian bosses (also known as autocratic) are self-motivated, communicate clearly and consistently, follow the rules, are dependable, value highly structured environments and believe in supervised work environments. This could lead to a tendency to micromanage.
Results from the Appinio Future of Work Report show that one third of British employees (30%) report having a boss with a trusting leadership style, 21% of UK respondents think their boss falls into the appreciative style, while 15% say their boss is very result-oriented. One in seven (14%) think their boss’ leadership style is cooperative, while 12% think their boss has a more authoritarian style, only 8% report their boss having a laissez-faire style.
Generally, the majority of UK participants (62%) surveyed have a positive relationship with their bosses, but this is especially true for employees that have bosses with cooperative (71%), trusting (75%) and appreciative (79%) leadership style. An authoritarian leadership style, on the other hand, seems to greatly hinder the boss/employee relationship, and similar results have been reported for bosses that are result-oriented and laissez-faire.
As everything in life, there’s no bad or good leadership style per se, in one environment a specific style may be successful, in a different one, it could lead to friction. It is important to keep in mind that how people lead and manage a team not only affects KPIs, revenue and business measures, it also affects the people working to achieve those business goals.
On top of that, life changing events like a pandemic would put a strain even on the strongest relationships, but only 27% of UK respondents have reported a change in their relationship with their boss in the last year and among those, only one third (33%) stated that the relationship has worsened. All the more so for employees that have authoritarian bosses (71%).
What is really happening in the home office?
After two years, we’ve learned one thing or two about remote work.
The joy of flexibility and independence, a newly found meaning for the term work-life balance, but also a new way of measuring productivity, proving to managers that it was not declining and that it was all business as usual.
Remote work has made employees come to terms with the fact that some managers are not that keen on letting employees work remotely because they don’t trust them and 23% of Britons agree. The lack of trust in the home office is exacerbated for workers that report to managers with an authoritarian style (37%) and for respondents that saw a worsening in their relationship with their boss over the past two years (31%).
It is a hard truth, but the past two years have seen an increase in micromanaging and tracking tools. Millennials seem also to be especially sensitive to this, more than one in four (27%) think that managers do not trust employees working from home and looking at TikTok or Instagram, it is clear that Millennials are the most vocal about this. Content creators like Rod, Ali Wood, Corporate Natalie, Loe Whaley and many more, post daily about their struggles in the workplace, acting as an outlet for many of their followers.
On the one hand, the introduction of digital tools in order to be able to work remotely has allowed workers to keep working seamlessly and without too many disruptions, on the other, it has also left one in every fourth British employee feeling more stressed (26%) controlled and overwhelmed (both at 25%).
Remote work and the addition to digitals tools have given employees the chance to explore a different way of working and still achieve the same level of satisfaction and productivity. If companies want to keep being attractive and retain talent, they will need to create processes and structures to enable all employees to work at the best of their ability without making them carry the weight of their decisions.
Want to know more about the Future of Work? Then also check our blogpost about the digital transformation in the workplace in the UK.
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