Microsoft’s second annual Work Trend Index report has highlighted a growing disconnect between employer and employee attitudes to hybrid work, according to a survey of 31,000 people in 31 countries and analysis of user data from Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn.
Microsoft found that 50% of leaders say their companies are planning a return to full time in-person work in the year ahead, even though a majority of employees prefer the flexibility of remote and hybrid work.
A small majority of managers (54%) did acknowledge that the leadership at their companies is out of touch with employee expectations, with 74% of managers saying they don’t have the influence or resources to drive change for their teams. And 43% of leaders say building relationships is their greatest challenge as a result of having employees work in a hybrid or remote environment.
“The challenge ahead for every business leader is understanding the misalignment and trying to figure out how they can align what employees expect and are going to demand, with the pressure they’re going to have to drive business results in this very difficult environment,” Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for modern work at Microsoft told reporters during a briefing earlier this week.
The report also found that 38% of hybrid employees say their biggest challenge is knowing when and why to come into the office, yet only 28% of leaders have laid out team agreements to define these new norms.
The report, titled Great Expectations: Making Hybrid Work, Work, identifies five key work trends that have emerged since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Managers often feel wedged between leadership and employee expectations.
- Leaders need to ensure the office is worth commuting to.
- Flexible work doesn’t have to mean being always on.
- Social capital looks different in a hybrid world.
- Employees have a new “worth it” equation which aims to balance work with health and wellbeing.
“How we define the role of work as a result has really shifted in our lives,” Spataro said. “In other words, people’s value systems and where they think work fits in their lives has changed.”
This last point is underlined by the fact 53% of respondents said they would now be more likely to prioritize their health and wellbeing over work than they were before the pandemic.
Updates to Microsoft Teams
Microsoft also identified that the average meeting time for Teams users is up 252% since the start of the pandemic, and chats sent per person each week are up 32% and still climbing. The average work day has increased by 46 minutes on average too, with after hours and weekend work up 28% and 14%, respectively.
As the proliferation of remote and hybrid work increases, business leaders will need to rethink both physical spaces and cultural norms to make office time worth the commute and be intentional about the who, why, and where of in-person gatherings.
Microsoft is responding to these changing work habits with a slew of updates to Microsoft Teams to further support hybrid workers.
These include an update to Outlook to allow users to indicate if they’ll be attending meetings virtually or in-person when they RSVP. The Teams Rooms companion device will now prompt attendees to turn their laptop video on so they can be clearly seen by remote participants, no matter where they are in the room.
An updated Microsoft Whiteboard will be included in Teams, including collaboration cursors, more than 50 new templates, contextual reactions, and the ability to open existing boards and collaborate with external colleagues in Teams meetings.
Furthermore, to bridge the gap between digital and physical workspaces, Microsoft is releasing a new meeting layout for Teams Rooms called front row, bringing the video gallery to eye level at the bottom of the screen so people in the meeting room can see remote colleagues in a more natural face-to-face way.
Other additions to Teams include:
- Microsoft Teams Connect shared channels.
- Bringing together of cameo and recording studio for in-meeting presentations.
- Live language interpretation.
- Teams Phone, providing users with one phone number for their desk and mobile phone, no matter what network or device they are on.
- The introduction of over 800 3D emojis.
- An inspiration library, providing users with access to best practice content from Harvard Business Review, Thrive, and Microsoft, available through the Viva Insights app in Teams.
Alongside the updates to Teams, Microsoft has also launched an AI-powered Microsoft Surface Hub 2 Smart Camera, with automatic framing technology within the device to dynamically adjust to the view of the room and reframe when someone leaves, more people come in, or a person interacts with content on the display.
Most of these features will be available from the second quarter of 2022, while the Surface Hub 2 Smart Camera is already available.