Microsoft has published the results of its latest Work Trend Index survey, highlighting the various challenges businesses encounter as they transition to new working models.
Based on a survey of 31,000 workers across the globe, and trillions of signals drawn down from Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn, the report identifies a series of trends brought about by the shift towards hybrid working.
The broad conclusion is that the calculations have changed for workers when it comes to selecting an employer, and businesses must react accordingly with new policies that support the demand for greater flexibility and autonomy.
Times are changing
Microsoft says one of the greatest mistakes businesses are making is to attempt to revert to old methodologies as society begins to return to normality in many corners of the globe.
Specifically, the company cited the push to bring employees back to the office full-time, driven by fears shared by more than half (54%) of senior executives about the ability for workers to remain productive at home.
At least half of companies plan to mandate a full-time return to the office within the next twelve months, data collected by Microsoft suggests, but a similar proportion of workers (52%) said they would prefer a hybrid or fully remote model.
Instead of tying all employees to a specific style of working, companies should be attempting to balance the preferences of everyone, Microsoft says. It should be the responsibility of the business to make the office worth the commute.
“There's no erasing the lived experience and lasting impact of the past two years,” said Jared Spataro, CVP Modern Work at Microsoft. “Empowering managers to adapt to new employee expectations helps set businesses up for long term success.”
Another area of concern identified by Microsoft is the negative effects on work-life balance created by the shift away from the traditional nine-to-five and towards a more flexible system, and the knock-on effects on the relationship between team members.
Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a 28% increase in the amount of work taking place outside of typical working hours and a 14% increase over the weekend. Although Microsoft says it is encouraging to see people making use of new freedoms afforded by flexible working, the company took the opportunity to remind businesses that flexibility is not a by-word for “always-on”.
Microsoft also noted that, while the majority (58%) of hybrid workers say they have maintained bonds with their co-workers, just half of remote employees claim to have a “thriving” relationship with their direct team. To address these kinds of issues, the firm suggests companies should take a deliberate approach to ensuring remote and newly-onboarded employees are supported sufficiently and are offered ample opportunity to get to know their colleagues.
“The shift to a hybrid workplace doesn’t start with new technology or corporate policies. It begins with culture – one that embraces a growth mindset, a willingness to reimagine nearly every aspect of the way work gets done,” concluded Jared Spataro, CVP Modern Work at Microsoft.
“Every employee will need to develop new skills to adapt to this new way of working, and with the right support and tools, hybrid working can unlock potential for a workplace that works for everyone.”