US Frontline Workers Desire Time Flexibility

December 7, 2023

Recent data compiled by American analytics and advisory company Gallup reveals a sentiment for worktime flexibility among “frontline” workers—that is, those who must work firsthand with customers or directly onsite.

According to Gallup, 58% of American employees work fully onsite and can’t do their jobs from home. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these workers were deemed to be “essential” workers—they needed to be onsite and working at their place of employment for the good of the economy and society.

But despite the fact that these employees are physically in the workplace, they aren’t necessarily more engaged than remote workers. In fact, Gallup has found that that fully onsite workers have lower engagement (29%) than fully remote workers (38%), hybrid workers (38%), and onsite workers who are also able to be remote (34%).

While the data raises the question why this might be, it also doesn’t clearly point to a reason. More than half (57%) of the onsite workers said that they weren’t bothered at all by the fact that other team members could work from home at times. For those who did work onsite but could also work remotely, there was more resentment: More than half said they were bothered, by a little up to a lot, that other employees were allowed to work from home, while they were not.

When asked what type of flexibility would cause frontline workers to leave their current employer for another job, working from home was one of the less-valued options (33%). In 2022, 38% said they would be willing to leave their job in order to be able to work from home. In 2023, 33% said the same.

Rather than desiring at-home work, perhaps because it isn’t feasible with their line of work or because they simply like working onsite, Gallup reports that frontline workers rated flexibility with their time higher than flexibility with their location, with day flexibility being more desirable than flexibility with their hours. Most appealing was the ability to choose which days they worked, having more paid time off and vacation time, and adopting a four-day workweek.

From the data, Gallup concluded a need on the part of management to improve their ways of listening to employees, to get a better sense of which types of flexibility are most important to their frontline workers who don’t have—or necessarily want or expect—remote work as an option.

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