Frontline Workers Want Flexibility Too

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Ryan Pendell

Story Highlights

58% of U.S. workers are on-site and can’t adopt hybrid work

On-site, non-remote-capable workers have far lower engagement than others

For frontline workers, time flexibility matters more than location flexibility

In debates over returning to the office and hybrid work , leaders often miss one fact: 58% of American workers work fully on-site and can’t do their jobs remotely. Many of these workers are considered “frontline,” meaning they interact with customers or manufacture products directly.

During the pandemic, these required on-site workers were considered “essential” for keeping the economy -- and society -- going. And yet, Gallup’s data find that fully on-site, non-remote-capable employees have far lower engagement (29%) than fully remote workers (38%), hybrid workers (38%) and even on-site workers who are remote-capable (34%).

Frontline workers have not experienced the benefits of remote work or hybrid flexibility -- for example, getting to skip the daily commute. Could this explain the engagement gap between hybrid frontline workers? Our research suggests it does not, at least not directly.

Over half of on-site, non-remote-capable employees (57%) say they are “not at all” bothered that other workers are allowed to work from home some of the time. For those who are fully on-site but could work remotely, resentment is higher: Over half say they are bothered, “a little” to “a lot” that other employees are allowed to have remote work flexibility while they do not have this option.

When Gallup asked frontline workers what type of flexibility they would leave their current employer for, working from home was one of the less-valued options (33%). This desire for remote work or work-from-home options has declined significantly from 2022 to 2023, with 38% saying they would change employers for this benefit in 2022 compared with 33% saying the same in 2023.

Either because it seems unrealistic in their current career path or because they simply prefer working on-site, frontline workers rate time flexibility higher than location flexibility .

Day Flexibility More Valuable Than Hour Flexibility

Time flexibility can mean different things to employees: the opportunity to choose which days you work, which hours you work or increased vacation time. All these options allow workers to better fit their work into the rest of their lives.

When Gallup asked frontline workers which types of flexibility their employer offered and which they would leave their current employer to gain, the answers fell into four categories:

More Expected (More Valued, More Offered) Choice of which days per week you work

Differentiating (More Valued, Less Offered) Increased PTO or vacation time Four-day workweek (e.g., four 10-hour days)

More Common (Less Valued, More Offered) Flexible start and/or end times Flextime (some choice over the hours you work) Relaxed dress code

Nice-to-Have (Less Valued, Less Offered) Remote work or work-from-home options Choice in which hours per day you work Three-day workweek (e.g., three 12-hour days) Shorter shift lengths Work at any location (on-site)

The most appealing flexibility includes the ability to choose which days you work, more PTO and vacation time, and a four-day workweek. The less appealing options include the ability to choose the hours you work -- flexible start/end times, short shift lengths and flextime more generally. And even this interest in hour flexibility seems to be in decline: Valuing flexible start and end times declined from 36% in 2022 to 34% in 2023 and valuing choice over hours worked decreased from 35% in 2022 to 31% in 2023.

Bottom Line for the Frontline

Employers may think they are providing the perks and benefits their employees want when they are actually missing the mark.

For example, while many employees say their employer offers a relaxed dress code, that doesn’t seem to play a significant role in attracting or retaining frontline workers. On the other hand, workers valued increased vacation time even more highly than a four-day workweek.

To maximize frontline employee attraction, performance and retention, leaders should find a better way to listen to workers opinions on what flexibility options they value most.

Do you know what your employees value?

Partner with Gallup to develop a strategy for listening to the voice of your employees.

Use Gallup’s Q12 engagement survey to ask questions that tie to your most important business outcomes.

Learn how to make the most of the employee voice .

Author(s)

Ryan Pendell is a Workplace Science Writer at Gallup.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on self-administered web surveys conducted each quarter in 2022 and 2023.

2022 Q2 surveys were conducted June 12-23, 2022, with a random sample of 16,586 adults who are aged 18 and older, working full time or part time for organizations in the United States, and members of the Gallup Panel. For results based on this sample, the margin of sampling error is ±1.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of front-line individual contributors, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

2023 Q2 surveys were conducted May 11-25, 2023, with a random sample of 18,871 adults who are aged 18 and older, working full time or part time for organizations in the United States, and members of the Gallup Panel. For results based on this sample, the margin of sampling error is ±1.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of front-line individual contributors, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Gallup uses probability-based, random sampling methods to recruit its panel members.

Gallup weighted the obtained samples to correct for nonresponse. Nonresponse adjustments were made by adjusting the sample to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education and region. Demographic weighting targets were based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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Share on Facebook. Share on Twitter. Share on LinkedIn. Share via Email. Print. Ryan Pendell. Story Highlights. 58% of U.S. workers are on-site and can’t adopt hybrid work. On-site, non-remote-capable workers have far lower engagement than others. For frontline workers, time flexibility matters more than location flexibility. In debates over returning to the office and hybrid work , leaders often miss one fact: 58% of American workers work fully on-site and can’t do their jobs remotely. Many of these workers are considered “frontline,” meaning they interact with customers or manufacture products directly. During the pandemic, these required on-site workers were considered “essential” for keeping the economy -- and society -- going. And yet, Gallup’s data find that fully on-site, non-remote-capable employees have far lower engagement (29%) than fully remote workers (38%), hybrid workers (38%) and even on-site workers who are remote-capable (34%). Frontline workers have not experienced the benefits of remote work or hybrid flexibility -- for example, getting to skip the daily commute. Could this explain the engagement gap between hybrid frontline workers? Our research suggests it does not, at least not directly. Over half of on-site, non-remote-capable employees (57%) say they are “not at all” bothered that other workers are allowed to work from home some of the time. For those who are fully on-site but could work remotely, resentment is higher: Over half say they are bothered, “a little” to “a lot” that other employees are allowed to have remote work flexibility while they do not have this option. When Gallup asked frontline workers what type of flexibility they would leave their current employer for, working from home was one of the less-valued options (33%). This desire for remote work or work-from-home options has declined significantly from 2022 to 2023, with 38% saying they would change employers for this benefit in 2022 compared with 33% saying the same in 2023. Either because it seems unrealistic in their current career path or because they simply prefer working on-site, frontline workers rate time flexibility higher than location flexibility . Day Flexibility More Valuable Than Hour Flexibility. Time flexibility can mean different things to employees: the opportunity to choose which days you work, which hours you work or increased vacation time. All these options allow workers to better fit their work into the rest of their lives. When Gallup asked frontline workers which types of flexibility their employer offered and which they would leave their current employer to gain, the answers fell into four categories: More Expected (More Valued, More Offered) Choice of which days per week you work. Differentiating (More Valued, Less Offered) Increased PTO or vacation time Four-day workweek (e.g., four 10-hour days) More Common (Less Valued, More Offered) Flexible start and/or end times Flextime (some choice over the hours you work) Relaxed dress code. Nice-to-Have (Less Valued, Less Offered) Remote work or work-from-home options Choice in which hours per day you work Three-day workweek (e.g., three 12-hour days) Shorter shift lengths Work at any location (on-site) The most appealing flexibility includes the ability to choose which days you work, more PTO and vacation time, and a four-day workweek. The less appealing options include the ability to choose the hours you work -- flexible start/end times, short shift lengths and flextime more generally. And even this interest in hour flexibility seems to be in decline: Valuing flexible start and end times declined from 36% in 2022 to 34% in 2023 and valuing choice over hours worked decreased from 35% in 2022 to 31% in 2023. Bottom Line for the Frontline. Employers may think they are providing the perks and benefits their employees want when they are actually missing the mark. For example, while many employees say their employer offers a relaxed dress code, that doesn’t seem to play a significant role in attracting or retaining frontline workers. On the other hand, workers valued increased vacation time even more highly than a four-day workweek. To maximize frontline employee attraction, performance and retention, leaders should find a better way to listen to workers opinions on what flexibility options they value most. Do you know what your employees value? Partner with Gallup to develop a strategy for listening to the voice of your employees. Use Gallup’s Q12 engagement survey to ask questions that tie to your most important business outcomes. Learn how to make the most of the employee voice . Author(s) Ryan Pendell is a Workplace Science Writer at Gallup. Survey Methods. Results for this Gallup poll are based on self-administered web surveys conducted each quarter in 2022 and 2023. 2022 Q2 surveys were conducted June 12-23, 2022, with a random sample of 16,586 adults who are aged 18 and older, working full time or part time for organizations in the United States, and members of the Gallup Panel. For results based on this sample, the margin of sampling error is ±1.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of front-line individual contributors, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. 2023 Q2 surveys were conducted May 11-25, 2023, with a random sample of 18,871 adults who are aged 18 and older, working full time or part time for organizations in the United States, and members of the Gallup Panel. For results based on this sample, the margin of sampling error is ±1.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of front-line individual contributors, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Gallup uses probability-based, random sampling methods to recruit its panel members. Gallup weighted the obtained samples to correct for nonresponse. Nonresponse adjustments were made by adjusting the sample to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education and region. Demographic weighting targets were based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls. Subscribe to the Gallup at Work newsletter to create an exceptional workplace. ( * ) Required. Your Email Address is not valid. Please re-enter your Email Address. * Country or Region Select One United States of America Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria American Samoa Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia (Plurinational State of) Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory (the) Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands (the) Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands (the) Colombia Comoros Congo (Kinshasa) Congo Brazzaville Cook Islands (the) Costa Rica Cote d'Ivoire Croatia Cuba Cyprus Czech Republic Democratic People's Republic of Korea Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (the) [Malvinas] Faroe Islands Federated States of Micronesia Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories (the) Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guam Guatemala Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See Honduras Hong Kong S.A.R. of China Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People's Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao S.A.R. of China Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Marshall Islands Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands (Kingdom of the) New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island North Macedonia Northern Mariana Islands Norway Oman Pakistan Palau Palestinian Territories Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Puerto Rico Qatar Reunion Romania Russia Rwanda Saint Barthelemy Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Korea South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syria Taiwan (Province of China) Tajikistan Tanzania Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkiye Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Minor Outlying Islands Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. Related Topics Include: All Gallup Headlines. Article. Culture. Workplace.