Hybrid working isn’t a new concept; however, it has taken a pandemic to bring it into the mainstream world of work. The Work Trend Index 2021 released last week by Microsoft has shown some interesting statistics about the future of how we work. If you’re not familiar with the Work Trend Index, here is the description from Microsoft:

The 2021 Work Trend Index provides data-driven insights to help people and organizations thrive in a rapidly changing world.

We analyze trillions of productivity and labor signals from across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn to derive powerful insights about how people work and collaborate. Taken together, these aggregate emails, meetings, searches, and posts create a window into human interactions at work — a unique view that we can use to better understand how collaboration and productivity are changing over time. We combine this data with surveys and interviews with information workers, frontline workers, and business leaders from across the globe, as well as findings from Microsoft’s Human Factors Lab, which looks at how virtual work impacts our brains. We provide expert analysis and advice from researchers across Microsoft who have studied social capital, wellbeing, culture, and human interaction for decades.

The annual Work Trend Index is published each spring. Throughout the year, we publish pulse reports on timely industry topics.

In this article, we will look at what hybrid working is and what some of the report’s main statistics now means for employers.

So, what is hybrid working?

Last year, the global pandemic forced employers to introduce remote working. In 2021, an easing of restrictions and the need to have businesses return to some normality has meant hybrid working has become the forefront of employer conversations. Some employees return to the office, some continue to work from home, and some have a mixture of both. This is hybrid working.

73% of employees want flexible remote work options to stay

For businesses, this is a fantastic opportunity to increase the talent in their organisation. Having employees able to work remotely full-time means talent can be attracted from any location. Employers are no longer restricted to the talent within a geographical area or dealing with the added pressure of negotiating packages that include relocation or even employing candidates that do not quite fit the role.

Of course, for this to work well, the business needs to have a robust recruitment and induction process created explicitly for remote workers and excellent communication and management skills to ensure deliverables are met and remote-workers still feel a part of the team.

Another great benefit to businesses is the reduction in overheads. If there are fewer employees in the office, maybe the premises’ size can be reduced, even small costs like the tea and coffee bill go down. 66% of businesses have already thought about this and are making plans to redesign the workspace to allow for hybrid working.

Again, this doesn’t come without the need for additional work to be done in the beginning to ensure it works well. Employees that have the option to work either from home or within the office need to have a space they feel welcomed to when they arrive at the office rather than spending the first hour of the day looking for somewhere to work and being left feeling like an outsider in within their own organisation.

39% of people say they are more likely to be their full, authentic selves at work

Working remotely has also encouraged the workplace to become more human. Many employers encourage their employees to be themselves at work, to show up as their authentic selves; however, many people would still feel embarrassed if their homelife showed up at work. How much of your home life did your colleagues really know about, or how often would you rely on your colleagues for emotional support? I am sure the answer for most people is minimal. Yet virtual meetings meant we have met our colleague’s pets or children, or at least heard them in the background. 17% of workers also admitted they had cried with a colleague in the last year; this number was even higher for industries hit the hardest.

Having a more human workplace is undoubtedly a benefit; however, 66% of employees said they missed the day-to-day office interaction. It’s harder for managers to pick up on the small signals that one of their employees may be having a difficult time based on their response to a passing “how are you?” and those “quick chats” where an employee might express things are not all well are also less likely to happen remotely. A strong employee wellbeing programme in place will ensure employees, both in the office and working remotely, feel supported in their roles.

37% of the global workforce say their companies are asking too much of them

As we have seen so far, there are many benefits to hybrid working for employers and employees and the statistics certainly back this up; however, it’s not all positive. Whilst business leaders are reporting they are happy with hybrid working and productivity, the statistics below show that employees are certainly feeling an increase in digital overwhelm:

  • Time spent in meetings has increased 148%
    • the average meeting is now 10 minutes longer
  • Weekly Team chats are up 45% and still rising
    • 42% of these being outside standard business hours
  • The increase in the number of emails sent over the last year is 40.6B
  • Unplanned or ad-hoc meetings and calls have made up 62% of the increase

Whilst hybrid working is never going to be perfect, there will always be an element of unplanned calls or meetings as there are in the office. However, this level of overwhelm will soon lead to employees feeling burnt out and unmotivated.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, businesses need to ensure they have clearly defined roles, expectations and deliverables for remote workers and, as we have said previously, an effective employee wellbeing programme and excellent communication.

For hybrid working to work, businesses have to ensure they have the right people and procedures to instil a company culture that nurtures all types of employees, whether they are in the office or remote.

We spoke to Chantal Reed, former Marketing Lead for organisations such as Dell Technologies, Microsoft and BT, about her thoughts on hybrid working:

You can read the entire Work Trend Index 2021 here.

If you would like help ensuring your business is ready for the era of hybrid working, please contact me here.


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