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Hybrid working should not be business as usual - Microsoft study

Business leaders should resist the urge to see hybrid work as business as usual as it will require the rethinking of long-held assumptions, according to new research from Microsoft.

Microsoft this week revealed findings from its first-annual Work Trend Index, The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work — Are We Ready?. The report uncovers seven hybrid work trends every business leader must know as we enter a new era of work.

“The choices you make today will impact your organisation for years to come. It’s a moment that requires clear vision and a growth mindset,” says Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365.

“These decisions will impact everything from how you shape culture, to how you attract and retain talent, to how you can better foster collaboration and innovation.”

The findings suggest that this past year has fundamentally changed the nature of work:

  • Collaboration trends in Microsoft Teams and Outlook suggest our networks have contracted, but hybrid work will revive them.
  • Time spent in meetings has more than doubled globally, and over 40 billion more emails were delivered in February of this year compared with last.
  • Work has become more human. Nearly 40% say they feel more comfortable bringing their full selves to work than before the pandemic, and one in six have cried with a colleague this past year.

They also show that we are on the cusp of a workplace disruption:

  • 73% of workers surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue.
  • Remote job postings on LinkedIn increased more than five times during the pandemic.
  • Over 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year and 46% are planning to move now that they can work remotely.
  • In short, addressing flexible work will impact who stays, who goes and who joins a company.

The 2021 Work Trend Index outlines findings from a study of more than 31,000 people in 31 countries and analyses trillions of aggregate productivity and labor signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn. It also includes perspectives from experts who have studied collaboration, social capital and workspace design at work for decades.

The report uncovers seven hybrid work trends every business leader needs to know as we enter this new era of work:

  • Flexible work is here to stay.
  • Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call.
  • High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce.
  • Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energised.
  • Shrinking networks are endangering innovation.
  • Authenticity will spur productivity and well-being.
  • Talent is everywhere in a hybrid work world.

In addition to uncovering what’s at stake with the future of work, the Work Trend Index identifies five strategies for business leaders as they begin to make the necessary shift:

  • Create a plan to empower people for extreme flexibility.
  • Invest in space and technology to bridge the physical and digital worlds.
  • Combat digital exhaustion from the top.
  • Prioritise rebuilding social capital and culture.
  • Rethink the employee experience to compete for the best and most diverse talent.


“During this pandemic we’ve observed a swift acceleration of certain pre-COVID trends. But perhaps one of the most exciting trends is this rise in remote work,” says Karin Kimbrough, chief economist, LinkedIn. 

“As opportunity is democratised with remote work and talent movement, we’ll see a spread of skills across the country, and this is the time for business leaders to take the opportunity to access different skills and talent not previously available to them.”