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Microsoft: Eight hybrid work trends every business leader should know

Microsoft has announced the New Zealand findings from its first annual Work Trend Index. 

The report, titled The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready? focuses on eight hybrid work trends it says every business leader needs to know as we enter this new era of work, and indicates business leaders in New Zealand should resist the urge to see hybrid work as “business as usual”.

“The world is on the brink of a disruption as great as last year’s sudden shift to remote work: the move to hybrid — a blended model where some employees return to the workplace and others continue to work from home,” says Microsoft New Zealand’s national technology officer, Russell Craig. 

“Adapting to this new hybrid model will require a rethinking of long-held assumptions. The choices you make today will impact your organisation for years to come. It’s a moment that requires a clear vision and a growth mindset. 

“These decisions will impact everything from how you shape culture, to how you attract and retain talent, to how you can better foster collaboration and innovation.”

According to Microsoft, the 2021 Work Trend Index outlines helpful findings from a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries, including New Zealand, and it analyses trillions of aggregate productivity and labour signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn. It also includes perspectives from experts who have studied collaboration, social capital, and space design.

It says businesses should recognise that work is no longer bound to traditional notions of time and space when it comes to how, when, and where we work. 

According to the report, eight emerging trends are:

  • Flexible work looks likely to stay, 71% of workers surveyed in New Zealand want flexible and remote work options to continue, while at the same time, 65% want more in-person time with their teams. 
  • Business leaders (66%) in New Zealand are recognising the workplace evolution and are more likely planning to redesign office space for hybrid work. 
  • The report says leaders are out of touch with employees, with research showing 76% of leaders in New Zealand say they are thriving right now, 35% higher than those without decision-making power.
  • It says high productivity is masking an exhausted workforce, with 51% of workers in New Zealand feeling overworked and 45% feeling exhausted, and it says Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energised, 54% of this generation in New Zealand, those between the ages of 18 and 25, say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling.
  • Aggregate trends across billions of Microsoft Teams meetings and Outlook emails show interactions with our broader networks diminished with the move to remote work. 17% of workers in New Zealand experienced decreased interactions with co-workers with the move to remote work.
  • Co-workers relied on each other in new ways to get through the last year, these increased interactions have led to 40% of workers in New Zealand feeling like they can be their authentic selves at work this year.
  • More than half (56%) of those surveyed in New Zealand are planning to move to a new location this year because of remote work options. This has also led to 48% of workers and 66% of Gen Z in New Zealand being likely to consider leaving their employers this year.
  • More employers prioritise work-life balance with 61% of workers in New Zealand saying they think that their employer cares about their work-life balance.

In addition to uncovering what’s at stake with the future of work, the Work Trend Index identifies strategies for business leaders as they start making the shift that Craig believes are crucial.

“Business leaders need to create a plan to empower people for extreme flexibility and invest in space and technology to bridge the physical and digital world,” he says. 

“They also need to combat digital exhaustion from the top and prioritise rebuilding social capital and culture in the hybrid workplace. They also need to rethink employee experience to compete for the best and most diverse talent.”

LinkedIn’s chief economist, Karin Kimbrough, says that during the pandemic there has been a swift acceleration of certain pre-COVID trends. 

“But perhaps one of the most exciting trends is this rise in remote work,” she says.

“As opportunity is democratised with remote work and talent movement, we’ll see a spread of skills across the country and this is the time for business leaders to take the opportunity to access different skills and talent not previously available to them.”