What is Hybrid Work?
A hybrid work model is a blended model where employees are allowed to work flexibly between the workplace and remotely from home.
Back in March, Microsoft published its 2021 Work Trend Index annual report, which provides the latest findings and an analysis on the ways we work now—and how we will in the future. The report shows that we are on the brink of a disruption, with a few trends re-shaping the workspace.
Following the global and sudden shifts to remote working last year because of the spread of COVID-19, it has become clear that “the move is to hybrid” for the modern workplace.
Workspace Trends – Is your business ready for Hybrid Work?
As vaccinations continue to roll out and employees gradually return to the office in the near future (as it can be currently predicted at the time of writing this post), the expectation is that some people will return to the workplace, while others will continue to work from home.
Flexible work is here to stay, and the talent landscape has evolved. With every crisis, comes opportunity as well. Indeed, remote work has created new job opportunities for some, bypassing the need to commute to work. But new challenges have emerged, especially with staff becoming siloed and digitally drained. There is much to learn and much to prepare for.
Thus, as Microsoft’s report suggests, “a thoughtful approach to hybrid work is critical for leaders looking to attract and retain diverse talent.” This report analysed last year’s changes to the way we work and indicated some key trends that will shape the future of work.
2021 Hybrid Work Trends
1. Flexible work is becoming the norm
The results are in: employees want a flexible approach to work, with over 70% of workers saying they want flexible remote work options to continue. But also, over 65% want more in-person interactions with their colleagues.
Hence, 66% of business owners and leaders are seriously considering redesigning their workspaces to accommodate the hybrid work model in the post-pandemic landscape.
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2. There is a growing disconnection between business leaders and employees
Many business leaders – over 60%, according to Microsoft’s findings – are “thriving” and faring better than their employees, but data shows the workforce is generally feeling disconnected to their leaders.
Also, a high percentage of the global workforce has expressed that organisations are asking too much of them.
This means that business leaders and team managers need to be more aware of the challenges of remote working; the lack of interaction in the office space, and how it’s affecting the way workers feel.
Working in isolation can affect the mental health of employees and the way they feel towards the people they work with. Leaders are increasingly falling out of touch with employees, so they will need to find new and better ways to engage with employees and re-connect with their teams.
3. Digital overload is real, and it’s increasing.
Research has shown that the digital intensity of workers’ days has increased substantially, with the average number of meetings and chats steadily increasing since last year.
For instance, analysing work trends between the beginning of 2020 and the start of 2021, stats indicated that:
Consequently, workers are feeling the pressure to keep up.
Despite meeting and chat overload, 50% of people respond to Teams chats within
five minutes or less, a response time that has not changed year-over-year,
proving the intensity of the workday, and that what is expected of employees
during this time, has increased significantly.
- Time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings has more than doubled globally in the last year.
- The average meeting is 10 minutes longer, increasing from 35 to 45 minutes.
- The average Teams user is sending 45% more chats per weekand 42% morechats per person after hours, with chats per week still on the rise.
4. Distant networks have diminished.
All the collaboration trends amongst Outlook emails and Microsoft Teams meetings are showing that employees have virtually stopped interacting with people outside their ‘immediate’ team, leading to shrunken networks.
As we shifted into lockdowns, we clung to our immediate teams for support and let our broader network fall to the wayside. Companies
became more siloed than they were before the pandemic, and trends show that even these close team interactions have started to diminish over time.
5. Remote opportunities are more attractive to diverse applicants
On the bright side, remote work is expanding the talent marketplace. Remote job postings have increased more than five times since the start of the pandemic, and candidates are taking notice and embracing the opportunities.
Many employees around the world are planning to move to a new location this year because they can now work remotely. People no longer have to leave their house to expand their career, and it will have profound impacts on the talent landscape.
According to Microsoft’s findings, employees are seriously evaluating their next move: 41% of workers are likely to consider leaving their current employer within the next year, with 46% planning a major pivot or career transition.
With so much change, employees are also re-evaluating priorities. The way organisations approach the next phase of work and remote working opportunities, will impact who stays, who goes, and who seeks to join your company.
What will businesses need to do?
- Empower people for flexibility. Business leaders will need to cater for new needs and demands, and come up with a plan to empower employees for true working flexibility.
- Invest in space and technology. Is your company ready to bridge the physical and digital worlds? This will be the most important step to bypass the challenges. Leaders must consider how to equip all workers with the tools they need to contribute — wherever they are working from. This includes harnessing the latest cloud technology, but also upgrading meeting rooms and evolving team culture to be truly inclusive for remote workers.
- Combat digital exhaustion from the top. Addressing digital exhaustion must be a priority for business leaders. This may involve reducing workloads or embracing a culture where breaks are encouraged and respected.
- Rethink employee experience. Employees’ expectations have changed considerably, and businesses will need to compete for the best and most diverse talent. It will be key to empathise with the needs of different groups within an organisation, and to see remote work as an opportunity.