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The Next Great Disruption – Hybrid Work. 7 Trends to Be Aware Of.

September 21, 2021

By Mary E. Corrado, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

A year and half ago we were all tossed into remote work abruptly, but over the past few months many of us have transitioned to a hybrid work model. A report by Microsoft examines the trends that have emerged over the past year and a half and what to expect in the near future as hybrid work becomes the norm.

The study identified seven hybrid work trends leaders should be aware of:

  1. Flexible work is here to stay. 73% of workers surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue, while at the same time, 67% are craving more in-person time with their teams. 66% of leaders say their company is considering redesigning office space for hybrid work.
  2. Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call. 61% of leaders say they’re “thriving” right now — that’s 23 percentage points higher than those without decision-making authority.
  3. High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce. The study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries found that 54% feel overworked and 39% feel exhausted.  While technology has made remote work possible and maintained productivity, it has also caused increased stress and exhaustion. I found these stats very interesting:
    1. Many of today’s communications is unstructured and mostly unplanned, with 62% of Teams calls and meetings unscheduled or conducted ad hoc.
    2. Weekly meeting time has more than doubled for Teams users and is still rising.
    3. Despite meeting and chat overload, 50% of people respond to Teams chats within five minutes.
    4. The number of emails delivered to commercial and education customers in February 2021, when compared to the same month last year, is up by 40.6 billion.  That’s a lot of emails!
  4. Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized. 60% of this generation — those between the ages of 18 and 25 — say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling.  Gen Z, those newest to the workforce, say they have struggled with bringing new ideas to the table, getting a word in during conference calls/meetings, and feeling engaged or excited about work.
  5. Shrinking networks are endangering innovation. The study shows that interactions with one’s immediate team, or close networks, increased with the move to remote work. However, interactions outside of that team, or distant networks, have diminished.  In fact, another Microsoft study of 60,000 of their employees showed that while short-term productivity rose with remote work, long-term creativity went down. They attribute the loss in creativity to the lack of real-time, hallway conversations. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is calling this new paradox the challenge of the decade. I agree.
  6. Authenticity will spur productivity and wellbeing. Throughout the pandemic coworkers leaned on each other in new ways. 1 in 6 (17%) have cried with a colleague, especially those in healthcare (23%), travel and tourism (21%), and education (20%).  Perhaps it’s made us all a bit more authentic at work:
    1. Compared to a year ago, 39% of employees said they are more likely to be their full, authentic selves at work, and 31% are less likely to feel embarrassed or ashamed when their home life shows up at work.  I think we all know our coworkers’ pets, children, and spouses now.
  7. Talent is everywhere in a hybrid work world. LinkedIn job postings offering remote work have increased more than five times during the pandemic. And employees like it – 46% of those surveyed are planning to move in 2021. In the midst of The Great Resignation, I think this is a trend that can benefit employers if they remain flexible with remote work.
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