Recent research by Microsoft, the 2021 Work Trend Index, showed that 41% of the workforce is considering leaving their employer this year.
Other statistics show similar results. According to the Labor Department, a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April 2021, starting what is called the “Great Resignation” period. People began to see their lives differently. While some realized how much time they were spending commuting and want to continue working remotely, others felt the exhaustion of digital overload and lack of connections. At the same time, companies like Apple are delaying its return to the office to October as the Delta variant surges.
Employees are claiming more flexibility, defining hybrid work as the best alternative in the post-pandemic workplace to adapt to the VUCA context. A report by TINYpulse shows that 62.8% of HR leaders say that hybrid work optimizes employee performance in their organization
Here are seven trends that the Microsoft report highlighted leaders need to know when planning a return to the office.
1. 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. Companies should consider re-designing physical spaces to accommodate hybrid work environments better
2. Leaders are out of touch with employee. People expect their employers and leaders to empathize with their unique challenges. More one-on-one meetings and informal conversations are required, especially in remote workers. If working in hybrid work environments, face-to-face meetings can enhance the connection even more.
3. High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce. Fifty-four percent feel overworked. Microsoft discovered that apart from an increase in time spent in meetings, the average Teams meeting is 10 minutes longer (up from 35 to 45 minutes). In addition, the average Teams user sends 45 percent more chats per week and 42 percent more chats per person after hours, with 62 percent of meetings not planned.
4. Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized. Gen Z’s, employees with the ages of 18 and 25 reported that they were more likely to struggle balancing work with life (+8 percentage points) and to feel exhausted after a typical day of work (+8 percentage points) when compared to older generations. For Gen Z’s, feeling a sense of purpose and connection is essential to feel satisfied at work, but remote work makes this more challenging, especially for those new to the workforce.
5. Shrinking networks are endangering innovation. The Covid-19 crisis and the remote work have increased the connections in smaller, closer groups instead of interacting with distant networks. Respondents who reported weaker workplace relationships were less likely to report thriving at activities that lead to innovation. “When you lose connections, you stop innovating” said Dr. Nancy Baym, Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft.
6. Authenticity will spur productivity and wellbeing. At the same time that the networks shrank, a good trend that started last year was increasing authentic relations with those closest to us. The research shows that 39 percent of people in the study said they are more likely to be their whole selves at work compared to one year ago. These more personal interactions can increase inclusion, productivity, innovation and psychological safety.
7. Talent is everywhere in a hybrid work world. Together with an crease in resignations, the marketplace is broader as companies are more eager to hire employees living on the other side of the planet. It is also more accessible for minorities, women with children and talents residing in smaller cities that prefer remote work.
To retain and attract new talent, companies need to continue adapting to changing needs. Leaders must look for ways to foster cross-team collaboration, continue improving authentic relationships and re-design their systems to allow for flexibility and hybrid work.
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