During Covid-19 the world was forced to learn new ways of working - remote and hybrid models became increasingly popular among companies worldwide. Microsoft and LinkedIn has developed a way of helping leaders and their teams navigate this new world of work, and here we'll share more about the trends we’re seeing and the data behind them.
Evolving Delta variant is compelling many of us to adjust plans for reopening worksites. It’s a stark reminder that this is the new normal - our ability to come together will ebb and flow. In fact, Microsoft had it planned for Oct. 4 2021 to fully reopen Redmond headquarters, and many other work sites in the U.S. But as we all know, those plans were juggled and shifted for all of us. Given the uncertainty of COVID-19, many companies has moved the dates of reopening offices or are simply waiting for clarity from the government. From there, many communicate a 30-day transition period that provides time for employees to prepare while allowing companies to continue to be agile and flexible as they look to the data and make choices to protect employee health, safety and well-being.
We’ve heard many business leaders come forward with strong opinions on how, when and where people should work in a hybrid world. At Microsoft and LinkedIn, they decided to take a learn-it-all approach, and lead with data rather than dogma - flexibility is being incorporated into the decision-making.
The Hybrid Work Paradox and the ‘Great Reshuffle’
A report on Work Trend Index shares what we’re learning from Microsoft employees in over 100 countries around the world. Employee surveys tell us that while hybrid work is complex, embracing flexibility, different work styles and a culture of trust can help us all navigate it successfully. In a year when Microsoft sent 160,000 people home to work and remotely onboarded 25,000 new employees, the share of people who report feeling included at Microsoft is at an all-time high of 90%. According to surveys, employee confidence and support from their managers is also at an all-time high.
But there’s no guarantee that these positive trends will continue in hybrid, and difficulties remain. As we navigate remote work during a pandemic, employee surveys show continued challenges to satisfaction with work-life balance and team connection.
While we hope hybrid work will help us improve in these areas, finding the balance will be complex. Ongoing research shows employees crave more in-person time with their team but wish to keep the flexibility of remote work. And every person is different – 58% of employees who plan to spend the most and least time in-office are doing it for the same reason: more focused work. And there are gaps to fill – managers plan to spend a higher share of their time in-office than non-managerial employees (45% vs. 39%). Moreover, employees surveyed plan to go into the office more than managers expect. This complexity is what some people call the Hybrid Work Paradox.
Different styles, different needs: Chart shows reasons Microsoft employees cite for working in-person and at home. Some employees cite work-life balance, focus time, and collaboration as reasons to go into the office, while others cite those same things as reasons to stay home.
Solving the Hybrid Work Paradox will be the challenge of the decade. We need policies and technology tuned for flexibility, but policies and technology alone are not enough. Every leader must also ask: How do I rebuild social capital and connection back to mission, culture and team? How do I help people prioritize individual well-being and work in sustainable ways? As Satya (CEO of Microsoft) has said: “Our new data shows there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid work, as employee expectations continue to change. The only way for organizations to solve for this complexity is to embrace flexibility across their entire operating model, including the ways people work, the places they inhabit and how they approach business process.”
All of this will be key to navigating this moment of change that our colleagues at LinkedIn are calling the “Great Reshuffle.” Leaders are rethinking their working models, cultures and company values, while at the same time, employees are rethinking not only how and where they work, but why. At the core of it all is the start of a new, more dynamic relationship between employers and employees.
To better understand how employers are thinking about navigating this new world of work, LinkedIn surveyed more than 500 C-level executives in the U.S. and U.K. Top of mind for executives is the same thing on the minds of employees – flexibility. With 87% of people saying they would prefer to stay remote at least half the time, a majority of employers are adapting: 81% of leaders are changing their workplace policies to offer greater flexibility.
Despite all the change, leaders feel like there are opportunities ahead – more than half (58%) are optimistic that flexibility will be good for both people and the business. Leaders have an opportunity to rewrite their playbook when it comes to hiring, skills development, engaging talent and more.
Employers and employees have an opportunity to build new relationships grounded in shared values and a common mission. And more people will be doing work that best matches their skills and needs, leading to greater success for organizations that engage their employees with empathy and trust. But the data also underscores the imperative for business leaders to transform themselves to attract and retain top talent as employee expectations evolve.
Taken together, the Hybrid Work Paradox and the Great Reshuffle are creating fundamental changes in the global labor market. Ultimately, no one can predict how things will shake out. But history has shown us that there is always opportunity in turbulent times.
Companies that are adaptable and able to continuously innovate will have the advantage. To really compete, however, they’ll need to enable sustainable productivity for their employees. Right now, the power has shifted from employer to employee, and people will vote with their feet. As conditions change, this pendulum of power will continue to swing in both directions, but two constants remain: First: as Satya said above, every leader and every organization will need to create a new operating model across people, places and processes. And second: those companies with a better employee experience for all employees – from the virtual boardroom to the factory floor – will be the ones to attract and retain better talent.
How technology can help
Microsoft and LinkedIn are navigating the challenges and opportunities of hybrid work just like every other organization. They see the role of technology as an enabler – helping employees and customers as they transform for hybrid work and reimagine everything from meetings that transcend space and time to a digital employee experience that everyone can access from anywhere – right in the flow of their work.
Giving people more choices in how they want to work
To help employers and hiring managers adapt to this new world of work, LinkedIn is rolling out new fields within job postings where organizations can now signal if the open job is remote, hybrid or on-site, helping job seekers search and discover jobs that align with how they want to work. And coming soon, LinkedIn will also have a way for companies to share how they are approaching the future of work on their company page including vaccination requirements, if they plan to go back to an office, stay remote or go hybrid. People are rediscovering how they find meaning and purpose in their lives and at work, and responding by seeking out new opportunities. Leaders, meanwhile, are facing new challenges in retaining and reskilling their people to meet the demands of our new world of work - and we look forward to seeing the result in a year or two.