Not long ago, success in corporate America was measured by titles, promotions, and raises. In essence, advancement up the proverbial ladder. After two years of upheaval, more and more workers are burning that ladder to the ground.

Once the ultimate corporate carrot at the end of a stick, workplace promotions have slipped in importance. What has taken their place?

Freedom. Flexibility. Autonomy.

In the latest revealing survey of 4,510 office workers from several countries, seven in 10 respondents indicated that they'd pass up a promotion in favor of the opportunity to work from anywhere, any time. That's an eye-popping number, and one that leaders would be wise to pay attention to.

Redefining success in the workplace, in accord with the workers

The mass exodus of top talent is not simply because of pandemic upheaval. Workers now have reprioritized and realized what's possible in the workplace -- and the archaic structure and measures of success that have changed little since the birth of post-industrial corporate America a century ago are no longer relevant to today's ambitions.

Success now means having more control over when, how, and where people work. Success means trading in the cubicle for a couch at home. Success means using your preferred devices and tools to maximize productivity.

"Does this mean employers should wave the white flag and declare anarchy? Not at all," said Jeff Abbott, CEO of Ivanti, the company behind the survey. "This is about empowering top talent to be as productive as possible, removing barriers to access, and enabling a secure workspace whether they're in the office or on a houseboat somewhere. The most agile employers will provide everywhere workplace options combined with policies that encourage live interactions across teams."

The 70 percent figure is just one of the notable stats that emerged from Ivanti's survey. Around one-quarter of respondents (24 percent) said they'd quit if their employer forced a full-time return to the office.

And while the same number (24 percent) reported having left their jobs in the past year, employers who think that means the Great Resignation is waning should think again: Another 28 percent anticipate changing jobs in the next six months.

Survey respondents cited the myriad benefits of remote work:

  • Time savings due to less commuting (48 percent)
  • Better work-life balance (43 percent)
  • Flexible work schedule (43 percent)
  • Saving money (40 percent)

That last stat is perhaps indicative of why so many are quick to eschew a promotion. The theoretical extra money from a promotion could be canceled out by the savings they're experiencing working from home -- and that promotion comes with more pressure, which nobody seems to need these days.

More than half (51 percent) of respondents reported no negative effects of remote work, though there were some concerns about lack of in-person interaction and challenges collaborating with team members.

While many employers scramble to keep top talent by throwing promotions and bonuses and perks at them to try to get them to stay, perhaps the answer is as simple as this: Make it easy for them to do their best work -- how, where, and when they want to.