It’s no surprise – the way we work has changed over the past two years. Employees prioritize almost everything when it comes to work. From where the work as a whole gets to whether it’s “worth it” equation, we’ve seen a fundamental shift that’s likely to stay here. Leaders and organizations are now faced with hybrid work decisions and the flexibility that employees actually want to work with, while also balancing the unpredictability of our current business environment. It’s a lot of uncertainty, but it’s also an exciting time for new opportunities. New data from Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trends Index, which outlines findings from 31,000 people in 31 countries, shows that as we grow, we are learning, but most importantly, leaders. Ready – Optimize with intention or risk it all. The report covers several important parts of our new hybrid work equation. Here are some key takeaways that caught my attention.
The Effect of Tickle Is It “Worth It”?
The pandemic we have experienced over the past two years has had a fundamental impact on our lives. Most of us know we’re focusing on what’s important, whether it’s mental health, family, or better work-life balance. According to the report, 53% of employees are more likely to prioritize health and wellbeing at work. 47% are more likely to put family and their personal lives first.
Changing perceptions are having a major impact on the workplace. Perks like snacks and ping pong aren’t enough to keep employees happy. And if big resignations are any indication, employees are leaving jobs that don’t match their priorities. 43% of employees may consider changing jobs to some degree or extreme in the coming year.
Again, not surprisingly, Millennials and Gen Zs are leading that change, with more than half changing employers, a 3 percentage point increase from last year. Only 35% of Gen X and Baby Boomers are considering the Switch by comparison.
It is clear that flexibility and mobility are important for the younger generation in the workforce. And if employers want to find, hire and retain top talent, offering the benefits that this division of the workforce seeks is non-negotiable. Realizing that you make a difference in an organization and living a life outside of work is possible today. Employers need to recognize that this is what their employees want and rise to the occasion.
Build a strong culture and strong relationships
Workplace culture has always been an important factor for employees. And while most of us agree that managers and employees are responsible for the culture, there is often a disconnect from above. According to the index, 54% of managers feel that leadership is not in touch with employees’ expectations. This is a huge number and probably one of the reasons for the great resignation.
Connecting to Disconnect? 50% of leaders want to return to the office full time while 52% of employees are considering going hybrid or going completely remote in the coming year. We are seeing that opposite priorities meet face to face. Employees are feeling more productive working from home, but leaders don’t notice this and fear that productivity has decreased.
From a relationship perspective, 43% of leaders say that building relationships is one of the biggest challenges of hybrid work. We’ve lost some social capital in the workplace, so it’s understandable that leaders would suggest returning to the office as a solution, but it’s not always the right choice.
Managers are clearly the key to bridging this divide. Empowering people in the middle of the organization to make decisions that will improve the lives of the employees, improving the bottom line of the organization. Focusing on relationships and flexibility will lessen the impact of what employees want. Employees with thriving workplace relationships report better well-being, higher productivity, and are less likely to change employers.
Managers also play an important role in balancing expectations from both employees and leadership. With the right means and channels of communication, managers can change the culture from within – and for the better. And tools aren’t just about getting more done. They should be implemented to help them work more efficiently, to help with the report’s next big trend, which was zeroing in on the balance.
Finding a Hybrid Work Balance
One thing is clear about hybrid work – planning requires intention. The one-size-fits-all approach no longer works. Gone are the days of open floor plans or just communal workspaces. Employers need to plan with every employee in mind. The mix of spaces is important. The plan also extends to hybrid meetings and the technology needed to create meeting equity. 43% of employees who work remotely say they do not feel involved in meetings. Turning to technology customized to meet equities like Pauly’s video conference studio equipment or Microsoft Team Room will go a long way in making a difference for employees.
But beyond the intention to create the right space, employees are saying they don’t have clearly defined expectations for when they will come to the office. Leaders need to work with managers to define what works for each individual team. Company-wide expectations will not work.
At the same time, these expectations for employees also need to be clearly defined and maintained by managers and leaders to avoid digital burnout. With increasing use of collaboration technology, the index showed that since February 2020, employees saw a 252% increase in time spent in meetings, 32% more chat messages were being sent, a 13% increase in time spent working during the day and spent even more time working hours and on weekends.
These trends can spell disaster if employers are not careful. Leaders and managers need to work to find the right hybrid work balance. Encourage employees to set aside and respect the boundaries they set – which is the key to long-lasting productivity and sustainable hybrid work.
Paradigm Shift Here To Stay
As I said earlier, leaders and organizations have incredible opportunities to re-imagine the way their companies work. We are operating in a digital-first world. Employees want to be able to work whenever and wherever, but expectations must be clear from the start and there must be a disconnect between being able to work, and expecting endless productivity leaves a lot of introspection for those leaders. Those who have fueled pandemic-induced productivity. Going forward, leadership needs to empower managers to make decisions that best suit their team, whether it is clearly defining meeting or office expectations or adopting a new technology that will will aid in productivity. Managers are the key drivers of success going forward.
Creating new practices that suit this evolving mindset will make the hybrid work, work for the future. And as the world continues to deal with the fallout of the pandemic and other global events, aligning top-to-bottom priorities will improve culture, employee happiness and loyalty, and how organizations operate – for the better – in the coming decades. Key to success in .