Hybrid Work is Here: So What’s the Outcome? - Hope 103.2

Hybrid Work is Here: So What’s the Outcome?

The return to workplaces has been a struggle for many leaders as employees are now making remote work a high priority.

By Michael McQueenFriday 16 Dec 2022WorkReading Time: 5 minutes

Hybrid work is underway.

A struggle for leaders has been incentivising the return to workplaces.

For many workers, the freedom and flexibility offered by remote work makes it a high priority.

However, the set of challenges faced by leaders is bigger than simply finding the right incentive to get workers back to the office.

The hybrid work world has created a new set of priorities in employees regarding both their teams and their leaders.

Microsoft recently released a trends report, highlighting statistics and numbers emerging from research into workplace relations within hybrid work models.1

Here are three key insights from the Microsoft findings.

1. We are overworked, but disengaged

The physical separation of employees from workplaces has raised concerns of business leaders about productivity.

Keeping track of people’s engagement and efficiency was far more straightforward when we were all in the same room.

While employers’ confidence in productivity is tentative, employees themselves report high levels.

The Microsoft productivity signals reflect this.

To replace the physical ability to keep track of employee work, many employers have turned to digital tracking tools which typically focus on activity as opposed to actual impact.

One of the results of this is a breakdown of trust between teams and leaders.

An uncertainty can be generated in employees surrounding why they are being tracked.

Beyond this, an employee’s knowledge of being tracked can provoke paranoia.

On top of actually working, employees can feel the need to perform their productivity and prove they are working.

Added to these pressures, team leaders and colleagues are conducting more meetings than ever.

On average, Teams Meetings per week have increased globally by 153 per cent (between the start of the pandemic and September, 2-22).

This is understandable, given the need to remain connected with employees working remotely.

However, this comes at the cost of genuine engagement, with 42 per cent of participants multitasking during meetings by checking and sending emails.

Further statistics reveal a lack of genuine engagement, with 51 per cent reporting weakened relationships beyond their immediate team.

Also, 43 per cent reported feelings of disconnection from their company.

Despite being digitally overwhelmed, employees remain disconnected.

2. We are demanding incentive

Having had a taste of the freedom and flexibility of work-from-home arrangements, many workers are reluctant to return to offices.

Economic incentives have been attempted, as have simple job requirements and expectations, but flexibility surrounding work locations has remained a priority for employees.

As the last point suggested, however, what employees are really missing from the office is the sense of connection that comes with physical proximity.

Remote work proved to many the value of incidental conversations in increasing employee connections and sparking innovative ideas.

These benefits have not been forgotten.

The Microsoft statistics tell the same story: 84 per cent of employees would be motivated by socialising with co-workers, and 85 per cent would be motivated by rebuilding team bonds.

About 73 per cent of employees say they would go into the office more if their team was there and 74 per cent would do the same if their friends were there.

The good news for leaders is that employees will return to the office – they just need the right incentive.

These motivations are particularly true for younger employees who are keen to build their connections, networks and reputations in the early stages of their career.

Gen Z is especially motivated by the promise of seeing work friends with 79 per cent reporting this, compared with 68 per cent of Gen X.

These numbers align with research conducted in the first few months of the pandemic which revealed younger generations struggle with remote work much more than their older counterparts.

Four in five of this younger cohort reported feeling more disconnected from their workplaces and colleagues – a figure that was significantly lower for Gen X and Baby Boomers2.

The impact on training and mentoring for young employees is also a factor to consider.

Ronald J. Kruszewski (from the Stifel Financial Corp) points to the fact that junior employees learn the ropes “… by sitting beside more experienced colleagues and watching them work.”

“That’s hard to do remotely.”3

3. We need more from our leaders

Given the new expectations of leaders and employees in what is clearly a new version of work, leaders need to pivot.

Trust is more of a priority than ever, as the connection and rapport between leaders and teams who are physically separated depends upon it.

Authenticity has become a priority, with 85 per cent of employees listing it as the number one quality a supportive manager can have.

This priority is unsurprising considering the prevalent feeling of disconnection, but it is significant all the same.

The leaders who successfully engage their teams in the hybrid work world will be the ones who show up authentically, connect genuinely with workers and facilitate an environment where team members can do the same.

Communication remains essential.

As is evidenced by the engagement statistics for Teams meetings, it is not the regularity of communication that matters, but the clarity.

Clarity surrounding expectations and priorities has been revealed as a key need in employees, with 80 per cent stating they would benefit from more clarity from leaders surrounding priorities.

Even more significantly, employees who report having this clarity are:

  • Four times more likely to say they plan to stay at the company for at least two years.
  • Seven times as likely to say they rarely think about looking for a new job.
  • Five times as likely to say they’re happy at their current company.

With staff retention being crucial for businesses across every industry right now, these numbers are especially important.

There are many benefits to hybrid work models, but their remains a range of issues affecting employees and employers alike.

Employees are craving connection, and they are willing to get to the office if they will find it there.

The engaged teams of this era will be the ones led by leaders who facilitate connection, prioritise relationships and model authenticity.

[1] 2022, ‘Hybrid Work Is Just Work. Are We Doing It Wrong?’, Microsoft WorkLab, 22 September.

[2] 2020, ‘Over 90% of Young Workers Having Difficulty Working from Home, Survey Finds’, Smartsheet, 22 April.

[3] Cutter, C. 2020, ‘Companies Start to Think Remote Work Isn’t So Great All’, The Wall Street Journal, 24 July.

Article supplied with thanks to Michael McQueen.

About the Author: Michael is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.

Feature image: Photo by Grovemade on Unsplash