To help leaders navigate the new world of hybrid work, Microsoft conducted a study of 31,000 people in 31 countries, along with an analysis of trillions of productivity signals in Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn labor trends. Its 2022 Work Trend Index outlines the findings, which according to Microsoft, “Uncover an urgent opportunity – and responsibility – for leaders to approach the transition with intention and a growth mindset, or risk being left behind.”
According to Microsoft, here are the key findings:
1. Employees have a new “worth it” equation. The last two years have changed us and our priorities. A whopping 53% of employees say they’re more likely to put their health and well-being over work than they were before the pandemic, and 47% say the same about their family and personal life. Before demanding employees return to the office full-time, managers should ask their team about the impact the last two years has had on them, what habits or routines they would like to continue, and what they want to leave behind. Then, managers and employees can decide – together – what hybrid work should look like for their team.
2. Leaders need to make the office worth the commute. Since employees crave open and flexible schedules, collaboration in a hybrid work environment will require proactive coordination. No one wants to commute to an empty office. Managers can create clarity by working with their team to establish team agreements that establish when, why, and how people come together in-person. Making the most of time in the office will help organizations make the most of hybrid work – and it starts with thoughtfully defining what role physical space can play for the team.
3. Flexible work doesn’t have to mean “always on.” The 9-to-5 workday is disappearing. In the last two years, workday span has increased by 46 minutes, and after-hours and weekend work are up 28% and 14% respectively. This kind of schedule flexibility at work can be a great thing. However, with time spent in meetings up 252% for the average Microsoft Teams user, it’s important that managers ensure those less traditional hours are a personal choice, not the result of back-to-back meetings. Managers should set new norms that reduce time spent in meetings and empower employees to hit the off switch. For example:
- Make it a team practice to ask, “Could we cover this in email or chat instead of a meeting?”
- Use the ‘required’ and ‘optional’ lines of meeting invitations to help people prioritize their time.
- As a team, consider designating meeting-free days or time blocks for focused work.
- Set expectations around response times to chats or emails sent outside business hours.
4. Rebuilding social capital looks different in a hybrid world. The past two years have strained our relationships at work. The research shows that remote and newly onboarded employees are most at risk of feeling disconnected from their teammates, and 50% of employees say they have fewer work “friendships” since going hybrid or remote. Managers play a crucial role in reinforcing team bonds. Teams can experiment with Team Tuesdays, scheduled in-person office hours a few days a week, or quarterly offsites to bring far-flung teammates together.
Jill, What Can I Do? The future of work is now, as hybrid is here to stay. This means new strategies, new procedures, new work schedules, and new skills. The managers who embrace this transition and change will take advantage of all the benefits of hybrid work. And those who do not will be left behind.