After many false starts, organizations are finally making the transition to a true hybrid work model. Like any other turning point in the past two years, there is no shortage of perspectives on what this next phase will look like. While some companies are going all-in on flexible working, others are pushing for a return to the office by 2019.
Despite this array of approaches, almost every leader today has the same question: is the new emphasis on flexibility and well-being a temporary pendulum swing, or the beginning of our new normal?
Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index gathers input from 31,000 people in 31 countries, job trends from LinkedIn, and trillions of productivity signals from Microsoft 365 to better understand the year ahead, highlight what employees really want, and help leaders navigate a path plan forward.
What we found is that the past two years have left an indelible mark on the psyche of employees, changing their expectations and fundamentally changing the way work is done. Three or six months of remote work could have been dismissed as a blip, but the duration of our collective, lived-in experience means there’s no turning back.
This is a pivotal moment, where leadership is more important than ever. Those who embrace a new mindset and shift cultural norms will best position their people and their business for long-term success. Adapting to the influx of change in this business environment is no small feat. Our report outlines five key trends to help leaders help their teams thrive in the coming year.
Employees have different priorities when it comes to work and life.
When it comes to work, employees are redefining their “worth it” equation: what they want from work and what they’re willing to give back. Compared to pre-pandemic, 47% of workers are more likely to prioritize family and private life over work. And 53% are more likely to prioritize their health and well-being – that figure rises to 55% for parents and 56% for women.
These are not empty words – the Great Recast is far from over. Fifty-two percent of Gen Z and millennials are considering changing employers this year (up 3% year-on-year), and 18% of all respondents have quit their job in the past 12 months, covering wellbeing, mental health, work-balance in life and lack of flexible working hours cited as the main reasons.
When asked what they wanted from a new employer, positive culture (46%), with wellness benefits (42%), a sense of purpose and meaning (40%), flexible hours (38%), and more than two weeks of vacation ( 35%) not far behind.
Adapting to these new expectations is not only good for people, it can also be a competitive advantage that ultimately increases profits, enabling organizations to empower their current employees and attract new talent to their ranks.
Managers feel trapped between leadership and employee expectations.
As the people closest to employees’ unique needs, managers play a key role. However, they feel trapped between the expectations of new hires and the decisions of leaders. More than half of the managers we surveyed (54%) feel their leadership is out of touch with employees.
Example: Our 2021 survey found that 73% of employees want flexible work options that last over the long term. But this year, 50% of leaders say they need or plan to be in the office full-time.
With over two years of remote or hybrid work to their credit, employees feel like they haven’t just survived flexible work — they’ve gotten pretty good at it. Eighty percent believe their productivity has remained the same or improved, in stark contrast to 54% of business leaders who fear their team has been less productive since moving to remote or hybrid.
Managers are in a great position to see and understand both sides of the equation, but all that insight isn’t much if they aren’t empowered to act. With 74% of managers saying they don’t have the leverage or the resources they need to make changes on behalf of their team, there’s a clear gap that needs to be addressed.
Leaders need to make sure the office is worth the commute.
We used to equate the office with work, but now that we’ve proven that work can happen anywhere, what role does the office play? Many organizations have been clear about encouraging employees to come back, but what’s less clear is why. If leaders don’t do this right, they risk employees giving up on the idea of hybrid entirely.
In fact, 51% of employees currently working in a hybrid model say they are considering going fully remote in the coming year. It seems that after a year of a near-hybrid model, they’re just not convinced that hybrid can work for them. Thirty-eight percent of them say their biggest challenge is knowing when and why to come to the office, and only 28% of them have a team agreement that answers these fundamental questions.
It doesn’t just get employees to the office – it makes the most of their time, especially in hybrid meetings. Despite the fact that 44% of hybrid employees and 43% of remote participants do not feel engaged in meetings, only 27% of organizations have implemented new hybrid meeting etiquette to ensure that everyone feels involved and engaged .
To make the office worth the commute and create an engaging experience for everyone, leaders need to be aware of the who, where, and why of face-to-face meetings and establish new meeting etiquette that gives everyone a seat at the table.
Flexible working doesn’t have to be ‘always on’.
Many of us feel like we’ve been working more than ever since early 2020, and our data proves it. Looking at anonymized productivity patterns in Microsoft 365, we see a steady increase in average workday span (+13%), after-hours and weekend work (+28%, +14% respectively), time in meetings (+252%) and chats sent (+32%). It is a rising tide that is not sustainable.
However, there are promising signs that employees are managing their time more consciously and reshaping their workdays. Compared to last year, meetings start later on Monday and earlier on Friday and fewer meetings take place during the lunch break. People are taking much-needed time off, with a 10% year-on-year increase in out-of-office calendar blocks. Employees are also finding ways to recreate the value of short hallway conversations, with an increase in 15-minute ad hoc conversations, which now make up about 60% of all Teams meetings.
While these are promising signs of individual efforts to maintain balance and make flexible working sustainable, teams must set new standards that set limits so that one person’s flexibility doesn’t become the other’s ‘always on’.
Rebuilding social capital looks different in a hybrid world.
We have all felt the effects of remote working on our working relationships, and our data amplifies this. While 58% of hybrid workers have been able to maintain a thriving relationship with their direct teams in the past year, only half of those who work completely remotely can say the same, and even fewer (42%) have strong relationships with people outside the field. their immediate team. Newly hired workers also stand out as a group in need of more support: They have weaker relationships in the workplace and 56% say they are likely to consider changing jobs in the coming year.
Organizations cannot see a return to the office as the only way to rebuild the social capital we’ve lost over the past two years. By creating time and space for building relationships and by encouraging teams (especially external and new hires) to prioritize networking and personal contacts, employees can catch up.
The people returning to the office are not the same as those who left in March 2020. The biggest change is their expectations. The past two years have left a lasting impression that will be felt for years to come. As leaders navigate the ripple effects, a willingness to adapt and embrace new ways of thinking and working will be a competitive advantage that puts thriving organizations at the forefront of the pack.
This post 5 key trends leaders need to understand to get the right hybrid was original published at “https://hbr.org/2022/03/5-key-trends-leaders-need-to-understand-to-get-hybrid-right”