By David Rosenthal
The future of work isn’t remote or in-person. It’s increasingly a hybrid model. That’s the takeaway from Microsoft’s Work Trend Index 2022. Microsoft spoke to 31,000 people and analyzed literally trillions of productivity signals from their platforms as well as labor trends on its business-oriented social network LinkedIn.
What they discovered was that even though the worst of the pandemic lockdowns are well behind most areas, hybrid work continues to grow in popularity, with a 38% increase from 2021. More than half of the people surveyed by Microsoft said that they are considering switching to hybrid work for next year.
These trends are consistent across demographics, but are especially strong among Gen Z and Millenials, the cohorts that will make up the overwhelming majority of top talent in the next few years. In facing this new reality and endeavoring to build workplaces that align with the preferences and needs of modern employees, Microsoft listed five key trends that businesses need to address directly:
1. Employees have a new definition of what matters most
Office perks don’t have the allure they once did. Ping pong tables, free snacks, and even a luxe corner office are still enticing to employees, but they aren’t enough to draw them back to the office all on their own. The pandemic has reshuffled the priorities of many. Issues like personal health, time with one’s family, and participating in a meaningful mission are taking precedence over traditional work benefits.
47% of respondents to Microsoft’s survey said they are now more likely to value their health and wellbeing over their work, and mental health was the single biggest reason given for why an employee might quit, followed by a substandard work-life balance.
Going forward, employers must invest in cultivating a workplace (both in-person and digitally) that creates a positive culture, cares for employees and protects their health and wellbeing, provides a sense of purpose and meaning at work, and which gives them flexibility in choosing how and where they put in their hours.
2. Managers must balance the expectations of leadership and their employees
Employees aren’t the only ones feeling stretched thin and burnt out by workplaces. 54% of managers surveyed by Microsoft said they felt their leadership was out of touch with employee expectations. 74% said they lacked the resources to make the changes their team needs to succeed.
Some companies are resistant to permitting remote and hybrid work options. Especially in industries that require more in-person work like manufacturing, retail, and consumer goods. Yet, remote jobs now attract 2.6x more views and 3x more applicants than on-site only roles. Managers need to communicate to leadership how important it is to create a work environment that appeals to top talent and is able to retain them.
3. Leaders need to give employees a compelling reason to physically commute
The biggest challenge that hybrid employees say they face is knowing when and why to come to the office. However, few companies (just 28% according to Microsoft’s survey) have established procedures in place to make that information clear. No one approach is right for every company, so each should be experimenting to find what fits their needs best.
Furthermore, technology is enabling hybrid meeting experiences that are nearly on par with live in-person events. Everyone can feel like they are part of the conversation when you adopt the right technology, such as:
- AI-powered cameras
- Larger screens
- Communication platforms like Microsoft Teams
- Digital whiteboards
- Automatic transcription services
- Mobile devices like Microsoft Surface 2-in-1s
4. Flexible work shouldn’t require being on the clock 24/7
Digital exhaustion and meeting fatigue are a real problem. Microsoft found that the workday for the average Teams user increased more than 13% (46 minutes) since March of 2020, and after-hours and weekend work has increased even more dramatically (28% and 14%, respectively).
However, in one positive sign, employees are becoming more strategic about their meetings. Productivity signals in Outlook show they are being more careful not to double book meetings, are starting meetings later on Mondays and earlier on Fridays, and 64% of all Teams meetings are now brief, unscheduled get-togethers.
The recording capabilities of modern productivity and communications platforms also means that meetings can be saved and reviewed after the fact, enabling more asynchronous work. “Because everyone is working at different times and in different places, it’s important to shift as much work as you can to be asynchronous and get really intentional about the use of the synchronous time you have together,” explains Jaime Teevan, Microsoft’s Chief Scientist.
5. It will take more purposeful effort to make strong social connections with less in-person interaction
Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend report found that teams were becoming increasingly siloed and disconnected from their broader organizations. That trend continues into 2022 unfortunately. Only half of remote workers say they have a thriving relationship with their direct team. Forming social bonds and building influence at work still requires a fair amount of facetime, but it’s critical to organizational success. Employees with strong social connections with their team report:
- Better wellbeing
- Higher productivity
- Stronger retention rates
Managers need to recognize the challenges that hybrid and remote work pose to building these bonds and look for opportunities to keep their teams communicating.
Razor Technology helps growing organizations adapt to the modern working environment with industry-leading digital tools and insightful guidance that promote efficiency and workplace satisfaction. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.