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Five Key Considerations for the Future of the Workplace

It has been dubbed by many as – The Great Resignation, The Great Reshuffle, The Big Quit, or The Turnover Tsunami, but what does it really mean to your organization?

The pandemic forced a sudden and immediate shift into remote work. However, the workforce is on the brink of another disruptor – the move to hybrid work. With over 40% of the global workforce considering leaving their employer this year – the talent landscape has fundamentally shifted, and we know a hybrid workforce is here to stay.

What is the future role of the office? How do teams build social & cultural capital in a digital-first world? How do companies make hybrid work, actually work? The Microsoft Second Annual Work Trend Index surveyed over 31,000 people in 31 countries and provides organizations and their leaders with some key considerations in regard to the future of work.

“Over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work. Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly – inclusive of collaboration, learning and wellbeing to drive career advancement for every worker, including frontline & knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates, and those in the workforce today. All this needs to be done with flexibility in when, where, and how people work.”

— Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

The comprehensive fifty-six-page report breaks down the following five key findings:

  • Employees have a new “worth it” equation
  • Managers feel wedged between leadership & employee expectations
  • Leaders need to make the office worth the commute
  • Flexible work doesn’t have to mean “always-on”
  • Rebuilding social capital looks different in a hybrid world

#1: Employees have a new “worth it” equation

Many employees are increasingly considering whether their job is “worth it” in new ways. The equation is different. Putting generational differences aside – employees’ wants, needs, and values have changed.

47% of respondents say they are more likely to put health, personal time, purpose & family life over work than they were pre-pandemic. The power dynamic is shifting and perks like free food and the corner office are no longer what people value most.

The report cited the top five reasons people quit their job as – personal wellbeing & mental health, balance, perceived risk of getting Covid, lack of confidence in leadership and flexibility.

More than half of Gen Z & Millennial respondents said they are seriously considering switching employers. 53% indicated they’re more likely to prioritize health and wellbeing over work – stating that flexibility carries more clout & currency and is more important than monetary pay.

#2: Managers feel wedged between leadership & employee expectations

Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s Corporate VP of Modern Work stated “There’s no erasing the lived experience and lasting impact of the past two years. Empowering managers to adapt to new employee expectations helps set businesses up for long-term success.”

74% of managers say they don’t have the influence or resources to make change for employees. And over half of those surveyed in management, says leadership is out of touch with their employees’ actual needs.

The data speaks for itself, according to LinkedIn, in March of 2020, 1 in 67 jobs in the U.S. offered a remote work option. Today, that number is 1 in 7 – with remote jobs on LinkedIn attracting 2.6 times more views and nearly 3x the number of applications compared to “on-site” roles.

Clearly, there is a disconnect. This tale of two approaches shows a major disparity between employee & leadership alignment – as more than half of employees are considering going hybrid in 2022, while half of the leaders surveyed say their companies plan to require full-time in-person work later this year.

#3: Leaders need to make the office worth the commute

38% of hybrid employees say their biggest challenge is knowing when & why to come into the office – citing only 28% of leaders have created team agreements that outline & clearly define why and when to go to the office.

Leaders must establish and define the purpose for in-person collaboration & rethink how space can play a supporting role. Organizations that fail to grasp & define the role of the office – risk missing out on the talent and true benefits of a hybrid workforce.

#4: Flexible work doesn’t have to mean “always-on”

Based on Microsoft’s data, since February of 2020 – there has been a 252% increase in weekly time spent in meetings and the number of weekly meetings has increased by 153%.

While work is becoming more flexible – digital exhaustion, overload and burnout are still very much a real thing. So how do you make flexible work sustainable?

For starters, some simple & actionable tasks include – cutting down the number of meetings (or include certain team members as optional), scheduling breaks within your day to avoid waning energy or lack of focus due to back-to-back meetings, and respectfully limit e-mail & chat outside of working hours (delay delivery so e-mails can be read during normal business hours).

#5: Rebuilding social capital looks different in a hybrid world

Leaders should not see a return to the office as the only solve for rebuilding social capital. 43% of leaders say relationship building is the greatest challenge in remote & hybrid work.

That data shows 48% of employees say they want to spend less time on e-mails and scheduled meetings, and more time on connecting with peers and customers. Conversely, just 30% of leaders feel that these types of activities drive tangible business impact.

Nancy Baym, Principal Researcher, at Microsoft says, “when people trust one another and have that kind of social capital, you get a willingness to take more risks, you get innovation, and more creativity with less groupthink.” Constance Noonan Hadley, an organizational psychologist who studies workplace relationships says, “regardless of remote status, building relationships will still feel like a luxury workers cannot afford unless there is a shift in how time is prioritized and valued by managers.

When work-life balance is out of whack, most people cut out relationship-building for more urgent matters.

To become or remain an “employer of choice,” the best leaders will promote a culture of flexibility & prioritize employee wellbeing – understanding that this is a competitive advantage in one of the tightest labor markets since World War II.

Leaders must approach this time with intention & a growth mindset, or risk being left behind. Meeting the new employee expectations will require a significant mindset shift – but will be imperative moving forward. Your people are the point – they are the intersection of where the work happens. Treating your employees, rather than your customers or shareholders, as the most important stakeholder & asset in your organization will enable your business to thrive and flourish in the future.

Article provided by OneDigital

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