The Future of Work in Chicago: Contract Work Up. Loyalty Down. Demand for Traditional Benefits Holds Steady

New Ernst & Young LLP survey explores how employers must adapt to attract and retain top talent

Mar 22, 2013, 10:02 ET from Ernst & Young LLP

CHICAGO, March 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The future of work is changing and, as employees' needs and perspectives change, Chicago-area employers must adapt to retain top talent. "The Future of Work," a new study from Ernst & Young LLP, conducted in conjunction with Chicago Ideas Week, explores what people expect to find in the workplace of the future and shares implications for businesses related to workspaces, technology, leadership, benefits and employee loyalty.

Ernst & Young LLP wanted to learn whether different generations have varying expectations of their employers, whether continuing economic uncertainty prompted new thinking about employment, and whether work schedules and workplaces would change due to technology and the need for greater work-life balance.

"White collar employees are signaling the desire for continued full-time employment, but expect to be productive on their own terms," said Kelly Grier, managing partner of Ernst & Young LLP's Chicago office. "Whether it's utilizing independent contractors or conducting work outside of the traditional work day, employers must be ready to adapt to the changing workplace, so they can effectively maintain an engaged workforce."

"The Future of Work" offers five key findings:

  1. People want and expect the flexibility to work on their own schedule and where they choose. Ninety-six percent of respondents expect to work more flexible schedules in the next five to 10 years — and all generations expressed a preference for flexible work styles and schedules. Sixty-seven percent of respondents do not believe that organizations will prefer that employees work in a specific physical office location in the next five to 10 years. Only 39 percent of respondents reported that they work a traditional workday schedule, and of those who work traditional hours today, more than two-thirds expect a more flexible schedule in the future.
  2. Respondents expect contractors to have an increasingly prominent role in the professional economy. Sixty percent agree that employers will use more contractors in the future. Forty-eight percent of respondents said that contractors will become more important than full-time employees in the future. Even as contract work is expected to become more prevalent, younger respondents were more likely than older workers to want a traditional position with benefits.
  3. Younger workers value security. Respondents in younger age groups more frequently expressed a preference for full-time work with traditional benefits and health plans than older generations. These results indicate that millennials value financial security and benefits, perhaps reflecting their having entered the workforce during an economic recession. Sixty percent of millennials expect to work for three to six companies during their careers.
  4. Employee and employer loyalty are both expected to decrease over time. Employee loyalty will decline in the next five to 10 years. Almost 70 percent of respondents believe employees will be less loyal to employers in the future. Likewise, nearly 64 percent said employers would be less loyal to employees.
  5. Companies will continue to move their organizations from the suburbs to downtown Chicago. The vast majority of respondents agree that the city will continue to attract more companies. Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents said that Chicago would continue to attract corporations from the suburbs in the next five to 10 years. More than 96 percent of respondents expecting this trend to continue cite the city's technology infrastructure as a key factor.

"These survey results demonstrate that Chicago has become a highly attractive destination for businesses," said Grier. "Chicago's tremendous concentration of talent, thriving urban center and continued investment in technology infrastructure will be essential to fueling the city's continued growth in the future."

About the survey
Ernst & Young LLP's 600 survey respondents hailed primarily from Chicago and included members of the Chicago business community, attendees and followers of Chicago Ideas Week 2012 and former Ernst & Young employees. Ernst & Young LLP also interviewed Chicago-based business leaders, city officials and academics to help put the survey results into context. To view this list of leaders and our full report visit

About Ernst & Young
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This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young LLP, a member firm of Ernst & Young Global Limited that provides professional services to clients in the US.


Amy Norwalk


Ernst & Young LLP


+ 1 317 681 7028


SOURCE Ernst & Young LLP