The second annual Work Trend Index report by Microsoft, Great Expectations: Making Hybrid Work Work, reveals that after sitting on the cusp of hybrid work for more than a year, many companies are at a long-awaited inflexion point: the lived experience of hybrid work.
The past two years have left a lasting imprint, fundamentally changing how people define the role of work in their lives. The challenge ahead for every organisation is to meet employees’ great new expectations head-on while balancing business outcomes in an unpredictable economy.
To help leaders navigate the shift, the 2022 Work Trend Index outlines five urgent trends from an external study of 31,000 people in 31 countries, including India, along with an analysis of trillions of productivity signals in Microsoft 365 and labour trends on LinkedIn:
1. Employees have a new “worth it” equation: The how, where, and when of work is changing, and so is the why. What people want out of work and what they’re willing to sacrifice for a job has evolved. Two out of three employees in India say they’re more likely to prioritize their health and wellbeing overwork than before the pandemic. These aren’t empty words – a staggering 41 per cent of Indian employees (versus 18 per cent global average) say they left their jobs during the past year. And the Great Reshuffle isn’t over yet: 70 per cent of Gen Z and Millennials in India are likely to consider changing employers in the year ahead, compared to the global average of 52 per cent.
2. Managers feel wedged between leadership and employee expectations: Keeping pace with these new employee expectations is no mean feat. And it won’t be possible without managers. These individuals are closest to employees and have the greatest visibility into problems and solutions. But all that insight doesn’t add up to much if managers aren’t able to act. For instance, despite the undeniable desire for flexibility, 67 per cent of leaders in India say their company is planning a return to full-time in-person work in the year ahead, compared to 50 per cent globally.
Over 62 per cent of business leaders in India fear productivity has been negatively impacted since the shift to remote or hybrid work, while 85 per cent of workers say they are as productive or even more productive compared to a year ago. 65 per cent of managers in India say leadership at their company is out of touch with employee expectations and 84 per cent of people managers in India say they don’t have the influence or resources to drive change for their team. Getting out of the way and empowering managers to lead their teams will lead to better outcomes for everyone.
3. Leaders need to make the office worth the commute: 45 per cent of hybrid employees in India say their biggest challenge is knowing when and why to come into the office or work remotely. It’s time to rethink the role of the office and adopt a degree of intentionality around the who, where and why of in-person gatherings. These new cultural norms will ensure the office is additive to the employee experience — helping all employees feel connected, engaged and able to innovate and do their best work. The encouraging news is that 42 per cent of business leaders in India (against only 28 per cent globally) have created team agreements for hybrid work to define why and when to go to the office.
4. Flexible work doesn’t have to mean “always-on”: Almost half (49 per cent) of all workers in India are open to using immersive digital spaces in the metaverse and representing themselves as avatars in meetings or team gatherings in the next year. Productivity trends in Microsoft 365 show that meetings and chats are on the rise, frequently spilling over the traditional 9-to-5 workday.
In fact, weekly time spent in meetings for the average Teams user is up 252 per cent since March 2020, and after-hours and weekend work has grown at 28 per cent and 14 per cent respectively. It’s great to see people reshaping the day to meet their needs — for instance, people are taking fewer meetings at lunchtime — but for flexible work to be sustainable, managers will need to create new norms and set boundaries to guard against a 24/7 workday.
5. Rebuilding social capital looks different in a hybrid world: One of the most felt aspects of remote work is the impact it’s had on our relationships. With 63 per cent of workers in India who are currently hybrid considering a shift to being fully remote in the year ahead, companies cannot rely solely on the office to recoup the social capital we’ve lost in the past two years. 32 per cent of leaders in India say relationship-building is the greatest challenge of having employees work hybrid or remote.
While 73 per cent of business leaders are concerned that new employees aren’t getting enough support to be successful during hybrid or remote work, 71 per cent of pandemic hires in India are considering changing employers in the next year, compared to 56 per cent globally. In a hybrid world, it’s important to prioritize time to build relationships, and give additional support for remote and newly onboarded employees, who are most at risk of being left behind.
“There’s no erasing the lived experience and lasting impact of the past two years, as flexibility and well-being have become non-negotiables for employees,” said Geeta Gurnani, Country Head – Modern Work, Microsoft India. “By embracing and adapting to these new expectations, organizations can set their people and their business up for long-term success.”
The shift to a hybrid workplace doesn’t start with new technology or corporate policies. It begins with culture — one that embraces a growth mindset, a willingness to reimagine nearly every aspect of the way work gets done. Every employee will need to develop new skills to adapt to this new way of working, and with the right support and tools, hybrid work can unlock potential for a workplace that works for everyone.