While they may look like the same people who left the office at the start of the pandemic, their priorities, expectations and needs are dramatically different, according to Microsoft’s second annual Work Trends Index, which is returning today.
A follow-up to last year’s report – which gave Microsoft a spot of fast company Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Data Science List – Combines insights from more than 30,000 workers in 31 countries and trillions of anonymized data points from its Workplace products. The findings paint a picture of a workforce that prioritizes their own health and well-being over work achievements, demands greater flexibility, and is more willing to switch employers out of work.
Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365 and Teams, says, “In terms of how we think about life, how we think about what’s important to us, and in particular, how we think about work.” We have changed in some fundamental ways.” , Microsoft is already incorporating these findings into its workplace culture and hybrid policies. For example, the company allows most of its global workforce to work remotely up to 50% of the time without permission from its manager. Each employee will meet with their managers face-to-face to discuss these policy changes and align their expectations.
Spataro refers to this transition as “great expectations,” as demonstrated by five key insights gathered in the report.
Employees Have a New “Worth It” Equation
Workers have taken temporary leave from business as usual to reevaluate their priorities. According to the study, 53% now put their health and wellbeing at work. Of the 18% of respondents who quit their jobs last year, the top three motivators were wellness, work life balance and resilience, with compensation ranking seventh.
“I like to think of it almost like a ‘new deal’ with employees coming into the office,” Spataro says. “It’s really important for business leaders to understand this.”
Managers feel confused between leadership and employee expectation
According to the report, most employers are struggling to meet these new expectations, putting more pressure on managers. For example, 73% of employees want the flexibility of remote work to continue; Yet 50% of business leaders plan to bring employees back to the office full time. As a result, 54% of managers feel that their leadership is not in touch with employees’ expectations.
“We essentially have a showdown as managers try to figure out how to navigate between leadership and employees,” Spataro says.
Leaders Need to Make Offices Commutable
Two years of remote work challenges the preconceived notion that the office is the only place where employees are productive. According to the study, 38% of hybrid workers say that their biggest obstacle is knowing when and why they go to the office, and 51% want to stay away entirely for the next year. Respondents also complained that many returned to the office only to spend their days in virtual meetings.
“It’s really important for business leaders to be more clear about when you come to the office, why you come to the office, and how you arrange to come into the office. [doing in-person activities] That’s it,” Spataro says, adding that 54% of business leaders are redesigning their office spaces to be more hybrid-friendly.
Flexible Work Doesn’t Mean Always Ongoing
According to the report, the average workday length has been increasing rapidly over the past two years. Spataro stresses that employers need to establish boundaries when implementing flexible work.
“The good news is we are seeing – from productivity patterns in Outlook – that people are being more intentional with their time,” he says. For example, meetings starting later on Monday, ending earlier on Friday, and “informal” chats of 15 minutes or less now make up 60% of Microsoft Teams meetings.
Rebuilding social capital in a hybrid world
Ties with immediate work groups strengthened during the pandemic, while more casual relationships suffered based on the frequency and duration of virtual interactions. According to the report, 58% of hybrid workers have thriving relationships with immediate team members, compared to 50% of remote workers.
“People who see their colleagues in person maintain workplace bonds that are strong with both their immediate and their wider team, but remote workers are beginning to suffer,” Spataro says.