A new report highlights double standards, overworking, stress, and inefficiencies in the workplace that could support the case for a 4-day week.

It comes from Filestage, an online review and approval platform used by teams at businesses such as LG, Cambridge University, Havas, and ITV to name a few. The report is based on survey responses from professionals in the marketing, design, communications, compliance, IT, and sales sectors, among others; it asked questions about their work experiences in 2021 and their expectations for 2022.

Junior staff spent more time in the office than directors in 2021

According to responses, junior staff spent 5x more time in the office in 2021 than those working in director-level positions. An excerpt from the report reads: “Only 4% of directors worked in the office full time in 2021, compared to 23% of juniors. So why are juniors still braving the commute while their bosses enjoy the comfort and, more importantly, safety of home? One explanation is that they have less space at home than their senior colleagues, so they prefer to work from the office. Another is that they like grabbing lunch or drinks with colleagues in and around work – and as anyone who’s attended Zoom drinks over the last few years will know, it just isn’t the same from your kitchen table. And then there’s the cynical argument: trust. It could be that employers simply don’t trust young professionals to put in the hours at home. Whatever the reason, juniors expect to spend more time in the office than anyone in 2022.” In fact, those in entry-level positions expect to be office-based more than any other group (15%). Meanwhile, only 4% of those in director-level positions said the same.

Overall, nearly half (47%) expect to collaborate fully remotely in 2022, and 44% expect to work hybrid. Only 10% expect to be fully office-based in 2022.

Workloads increased across the board

A staggering 68% of respondents said their workload increased in 2021, and while this was up for all respondents, it was less of an issue for those who were fully office-based (62% reported an increased workload) compared to those working remotely or in a hybrid model (69% each).

Working more than contracted hours was experienced more by 3 in 4 (76%) of those working in a hybrid model. This compares to 69% of those who worked fully remote, and 62% of those who were fully office-based.

Meanwhile, those who were fully office-based reported more demanding deadlines (66%) than those who worked remotely (56%), which could be explained by the fact that it typically takes longer to get work done in an office setting; in fact, the study found a whopping 54% of time is spent giving and receiving feedback (instead of doing the work) for those who were office-based, compared to 35% of time spent doing the same in a fully remote work setting.

Two days a week on average are spent on giving and receiving feedback, rather than doing the work

Account managers, compliance teams, strategists, and project managers typically spent more time on this. Feeding back on colleagues’ work is undoubtedly a necessity in most workplaces, and some industries require it more than others, but the survey results suggest that a clearer, more efficient process might not only make employees happier at work, but it could also allow them to create better work and even support the case for a 4-day week. In fact, 2 in 3 said they feel stressed or frustrated by the feedback process they have to go through in order to complete work. These feelings were felt most strongly by those who worked hybrid. If a better and more efficient feedback process was introduced, 9 in 10 said they’d feel happier at work, and 3 in 4 said they’d create better work.

Jennifer Born is a team lead on Filestage’s customer success and support team. She said: “Some people come to us saying they’ve had pieces of work approved one day, then unapproved a few weeks later. As an employee or freelancer, how are you supposed to do your best work if the people around you can’t remember what they’ve seen or said? Combing through notes to resolve issues like this can be a minefield; we’ve had customers who have told us about times when they’ve needed to piece together individual emails, comments on documents, and scribbles buried deep in notebooks to get everyone back on the same page. Having a chaotic system like this can add to stress and frustration at work, not to mention the fact that it’s a massive drain on time and resources; we’ve even had customers who have said it’s literally someone’s full-time job to keep track of feedback on their projects.”

When asked about the problems that hold up effective collaboration at work, these were the top 10 according to survey respondents:

  1. Arranging meetings to clarify feedback – 53%
  2. Delayed feedback from reviewers – 49%
  3. Having to chase reviewers for feedback or approval – 48%
  4. Getting conflicting or unclear feedback – 40%
  5. Having to consolidate feedback from different people and places (i.e. a mixture of email, voice notes, instant messages etc) – 38%
  6. Moving deadlines to allow more time for feedback – 38%
  7. Poor communication – 34%
  8. Unclear goals and project briefs – 31%
  9. Unnecessary meetings – 27%
  10. Outdated tools and processes – 17%

Asynchronous working is gaining momentum and popularity

Over half (52%) of respondents expect to spend most of their time communicating with colleagues asynchronously in 2022. The rest (48%) expect to collaborate in real-time, but the report considers this enough to “tip the scales”.

It reads: “Before the pandemic, working from home was the exception. But in a world where half the team is remote on any given day, important discussions will have to happen in channels rather than corridors. And projects will be drawn up on kanbans instead of whiteboards. And so, as long as part of the team is set up to work asynchronously, everyone will be.”

Maël Frize, CPO and Co-founder at Filestage said: “If you want to work asynchronously, there are two things you need: empathy and tech. You need to constantly think about the people you’re collaborating with and make sure you’re setting them up to do their best work. This could be as simple as sharing a screen recording (such as Loom) to guide them through a piece of content you’ve created, or creating a guide in your company Notion to help people find answers when you’re offline. And that brings me to the second point: your tech stack. By investing in the right tools for your workflow, from project management through to review and approval, you can set your team up for success – wherever and whenever they work.”

He offers three tips to ensure asynchronous success:

  1. Add your usual working hours to your calendar so everyone can see when you’re available.
  2. Use written and recorded communication as often as possible. So if someone’s offline and you can’t remember exactly what they said, you can go back and check instead of putting things off until the next day.
  3. Set up kick-off meetings for new projects, especially for cross-company collaboration. This will give you the chance to discuss how you’ll communicate and which tools you’ll use throughout the project.