The death of full-time in-office work and the rise of tomorrow’s corporate titans

Find out why the old model of full-time in-office work is now dead, and how small companies are leading the charge towards the future.

The traditional 9-to-5, suited-up office worker spending their days in a cubicle farm – that image is quickly fading into history. Full-time in-office work is dying, and the stake is being driven through its heart by the most innovative companies leading the future of business.

Small companies are leading the way on flexibility

As we see in Scoop’s illuminating Q3 Flex Index report, smaller companies are leading the charge away from mandated office presence. An astonishing 76% of companies with under 500 employees now offer full work location flexibility or have gone fully remote.

And it’s not just in obvious fields like tech. Even excluding the tech industry, 59% of firms with under 500 staff have embraced flexible or remote work.

These statistics reveal a major shift in how the most agile, disruptive small businesses view office work compared to lumbering corporate giants. The flexible firms of today with just hundreds of staff are positioned to become the Amazons and Googles of tomorrow.

Just look at some examples. Fintech disruptors like Stripe and Chime have grown explosively while allowing remote work from the start. And Warby Parker shook up the eyewear industry with an innovative flexible model. 

The most innovative thinkers recognize rigid office mandates cost money, hamper agility, and repel top talent. Offering work location flexibility allows small firms to punch above their weight – moving fast, running lean, and attracting the best.

As these scrappy companies grow from hundreds to thousands of staff, they ingrain flexibility into their culture. The data makes clear that full-time office work is dying – and the stake is being driven through its heart by the most disruptive small businesses destined to dominate the future.

The hard facts and stats

The Q3 Flex Index data reveals clearly how work location flexibility is skyrocketing at these small but mighty companies – and provides a glimpse of the future of business:

  • 93% of companies founded after 2010 offer work location flexibility
  • 85% of non-tech firms started after 2010 offer flexibility
  • 76% of companies under 500 employees are fully flexible

Compare those numbers to the 39% of all companies currently requiring full-time in-office work. The gap is massive – and illustrates the coming shift as today’s leading startups disrupt whole industries.

Within 10 to 15 years, the report says to expect only 15% or fewer companies to require full-time office work. Those dinosaurs will be left behind by the flexible, remote-friendly firms leading the charge – which started small just years ago.

It’s not just tech – flexibility is cross-industry

Critics may argue this shift is only happening in the technology industry. But the data disproves that critique.

Yes, 97% of tech companies allow location flexibility – the highest of any sector. But other industries are not far behind:

  • Media & Entertainment – 91% offer flexibility
  • Insurance – 89%
  • Professional Services – 85%
  • Financial Services – 83%

Clearly, work location flexibility is no longer a tech-only phenomenon. Trailblazing startups across sectors recognize the benefits. Talent and innovation thrive when people can work how and where they want.

What does this mean for big corporations?

The statistics paint a scary picture for old-school, rigid corporations. Today’s scrappy startups embracing flexible work are positioned to dominate the future across industries.

Consider how Amazon disrupted retail, Google search, Facebook social media, and Tesla automotive. In 10 years, the leading disruptors will be today’s tiny startups – and remote or flexible work will be baked into their culture.

Legacy corporations requiring full-time office presence will face a choice. Adapt to compete for talent with flexible rivals? Or watch their best people flee to smaller firms with better policies?

Clinging to antiquated notions of in-person work may please a few out-of-touch executives. But the data shows this failed strategy will prove to be the downfall of once-powerful corporations.

Why there’s no turning back the tide now

Some observers continually predict a wave of employees will be called back to the office – especially after holidays like Labor Day. But it simply hasn’t happened over the past few years. Office occupancy rates have barely budged.

Why? For one, employee desires are clear. Surveys show they only want to work in the office 2 days per week on average. And hot young companies are aligned with these wishes – offering flexibility to attract talent and cut costs.

Secondly, the data shows even the average employer only wants people in the office 2.5 days a week – not too far off the 2 days desired by staff. Mandating more days than that would mean losing talent to flexible rivals.

So this equilibrium of 2-3 partly in-office days per week satisfies employee wants and business needs. With neither side pushing for a major change, the flexible work revolution will continue marching forward – led from the front by the Paypals, Ubers and Airbnbs of tomorrow.

Why commercial real estate is in for a shock

For a sector based around crowded offices, these trends spell trouble.

On one hand, the hybrid model adopted by large corporations props up demand – but only to around 50% of prepandemic levels. On the other hand, small innovative companies are abandoning offices and embracing remote work.

This pincer movement threatens to crush old-fashioned commercial real estate firms between the rock of partial office work and the hard place of full remote flexibility. Occupancy rates show no sign of budging higher.

And the flexible work revolution is just getting started. As the next generation of firms grow, they will force change at the dinosaurs clinging to rigid in-office traditions.

Within 10 to 15 years, expect only 15% or fewer companies to require full-time office work. For real estate tied to packed offices – that is a terrifying prospect.

Companies need to seize the future to avoid being left behind

The data shows clearly where the working world is headed. The companies dictating the future are embracing flexible work models to attract talent and stay nimble. That’s what I tell the 5-10 leaders who call me every week to discuss their company’s policies toward flexible work.

While some sectors like manufacturing and healthcare still require on-site work, any desk job role can be done successfully with a mix of office and remote or fully virtual work. And even manufacturing and healthcare have plenty of opportunities for offering flexibility for back-office staff.

Whether an employer, employee or commercial real estate investor, it is time to accept that full-time in-office work is dying. The companies adopting flexible practices will lead the future.

Those who fail to adapt to this new world will surely be left behind.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky helps tech and finance industry executives drive collaboration, innovation, and retention in hybrid work. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts

He is the best-selling author of seven books, including Never Go With Your Gut and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams. His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles in prominent venues such asHarvard Business Review, Fortune, and Forbes

His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox and over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist at UNC-Chapel Hill and Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Photo by Pawel Chu