Microsoft has recently announced findings from its first annual Work Trend Index. Titled "The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work — Are We Ready?" the report uncovers seven hybrid work trends every business leader must know as we enter a new era of work.
The report indicates that business leaders should resist the urge to see hybrid work like business as usual. It will require the rethinking of long-held assumptions.
"The choices you make today will impact your organization for years to come. It's a moment that requires clear vision and a growth mindset," said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365. "These decisions will impact everything from how you shape culture, to how you attract and retain talent, to how you can better foster collaboration and innovation."
The findings suggest that this past year has fundamentally changed the nature of work:
- Collaboration trends in Microsoft Teams and Outlook suggest our networks have contracted, but hybrid work will revive them.
- Time spent in meetings has more than doubled globally, and over 40 billion more emails were delivered in February of this year compared with last.
- Work has become more human. Nearly 40% say they feel more comfortable bringing their full selves to work than before the pandemic, and one in six have cried with a colleague this past year.
The study also shows that we are on the cusp of a workplace disruption:
- 73% of workers surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue.
- Remote job postings on LinkedIn increased more than five times during the pandemic.
- Over 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year and 46% are planning to move now that they can work remotely.
In short, addressing flexible work will impact who stays, who goes, and who joins a company.
The 2021 Work Trend Index outlines findings from a study of more than 31,000 people in 31 countries and analyzes trillions of aggregate productivity and labor signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn. It also includes perspectives from experts who have studied collaboration, social capital, and workspace design at work for decades.
The report uncovers seven hybrid work trends every business leader needs to know as we enter this new era of work:
- Flexible work is here to stay: 73 percent of workers surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue, while at the same time, 67 percent are craving more in-person time with their teams.
- Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call: Research shows that 61 percent of leaders say they are thriving right now– 23 percentage points higher than those without decision-making power.
- High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce: Fifty-four percent feel overworked. Thirty-nine percent feel exhausted. Australia and China were the only two countries where weekly meeting time didn't triple YOY.
- Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized: Sixty percent of this generation — those between the ages of 18 and 25 — say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling.
- Shrinking networks are endangering innovation: Aggregate trends across billions of Microsoft Teams meetings and Outlook emails show interactions with our broader networks diminished with the move to remote work
- Authenticity will spur productivity and well-being: Coworkers leaned on each other in new ways to get through the last year. 1 in 6 (17 percent) has cried with a colleague, especially those in healthcare (23%), travel and tourism (21 percent), and education (20 percent).
- Talent is everywhere in a hybrid work world: Nearly half (46 percent) of those surveyed are planning to move to a new location this year, indicating that people no longer have to leave their desk, house, or community to expand their career opportunities.
In addition to uncovering what's at stake with the future of work, the Work Trend Index identifies five strategies for business leaders as they begin to make the necessary shift:
- Create a plan to empower people for extreme flexibility.
- Invest in space and technology to bridge the physical and digital worlds.
- Combat digital exhaustion from the top.
- Prioritize rebuilding social capital and culture.
- Rethink the employee experience to compete for the best and most diverse talent
"During this pandemic, we've observed a swift acceleration of certain pre-COVID trends. But perhaps one of the most exciting trends is this rise in remote work," said Karin Kimbrough, Chief Economist, LinkedIn. "As the opportunity is democratized with remote work and talent movement, we'll see a spread of skills across the country, and this is the time for business leaders to take the opportunity to access different skills and talent not previously available to them."