The rise of ‘little flex time’ and shorter work weeks: Trends that’ll reshape businesses in 2024, according to massive study of nearly 2.7 million job searches and 30,000 workers

Leaders require no crystal ball; data is their compass in anticipating workers’ desires in the upcoming year.

Flexa, the flexible jobs board, crunched 9,360 ads, 2.7 million searches, and 27,880 global worker preferences from Jan to Nov 2023. The result? Work trends that’ll reshape businesses in 2024.

While Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Jamie Dimon have all predicted that a shorter week is the future, The Flexible Working Index highlights that the shift to working less is already here—despite the influx of return-to-office mandates and orders from CEOs for workers to put in more overtime.

“2023 saw working weeks get shorter,” the report hails. Searches for four-day week jobs experienced a 68% surge in interest since February 2023, at the same time as Britain (where the majority of Flexa’s users are based) completed the world’s biggest trial of a four-day working week with a 92% success rate.

Data also shows that employers are increasingly embracing this model. Q4 2023 saw a 400% increase in jobs offering a 4-day week, 4.5-day week, or 9-day fortnight, compared to Q4 2022.

“We feel confident in saying that we will only see these numbers continue to rise into 2024 to meet candidate demand,” Flexa said.

Echoing the positive impact of Britain’s four-day week pilot—where company revenue and productivity increased—the report added that firms that offer a three-day weekend can build “trust and strong relationships with their workforce, making them more likely to stick around in the long run.”

1 in 3 workers wanted jobs offering mental health support

In the first year of the pandemic, anxiety and depression surged by 25% and despite the health crisis being seemingly behind us, worker’s mental health has shown little sign of improving.

This year, sick leave was at a record high with mental health being cited as the main reason for needing to take time off work. 

Flexa’s report doesn’t delve into why workers feel worse for wear, but it is clear that they’re acutely aware that they need help and are looking for support from employers.

One in three workers expressed a preference for jobs offering mental health support, a 16% uptick from last year. 

And employers are listening: Flexa reported that support in the form of “mental health days”, wellbeing allowances and access to mental health platforms are becoming more prevalent workplace perks.

With multiple wars and a cost of living crisis spilling into the new year, Flexa is “confident” that mental health benefits will be needed more than ever in 2024, along with training in handling mental health issues.

Workers care about where—not when—they work

Amidst the chatter about employees clamoring for flexible work, Flexa’s findings suggest leaders needn’t scramble to fulfill every wish.

Surprisingly, over half of surveyed workers declare they “don’t mind” whether their employers dish out flexible hours.

Gallup’s separate study echoes this sentiment, revealing that 50% of workers prefer a solid 9-to-5 gig over the option to juggle work at their convenience.

So, the allure of core and flexible hours might dim in 2024.

Yet, a distinctive trend emerges: the rise of the “little flex time.”

Throughout 2023, there’s a growing preference for companies sticking to a 9-5 routine but offering leeway for employees to start or finish a bit earlier or later, catering to school drop-offs and pick-ups, for instance, Flexa notes.

While workers might shrug off when they work, where they work is another matter. 

While only 9% of searches aimed for flexible hours, a whopping 51% sought remote roles.

However, demand outstrips supply: Roles offering fully remote work were the least common on Flexa’s job board in 2023.

2024: The year of compromise

While fully remote work has fallen out of favor with most employers in the last year, hybrid working continues to be a happy medium that employers and remote-loving workers can compromise on.

The average job advert in 2023 asked for just 1 to 2 days of in-office working, according to Flexa’s report. “For the majority of companies, we think hybrid working will dominate the future,” it added.

Meanwhile, demand for work-from-anywhere schemes increased by a whopping 583% over the year.

“Its popularity shows no signs of slowing, either; and with demand and interest this high, 2024 looks set to be the biggest year yet for Work From Anywhere,” the report noted.

Molly Johnson-Jones, CEO and co-founder of Flexa, told Fortune: “The takeaway for employers is simple. Rather than try to offer every new flexible benefit that inevitably springs up in 2024, companies should focus on the overarching needs of their teams, and consider what “umbrella flexibility” they can realistically offer to cover as many of these needs as possible.”

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