Hybrid Work: The Seven Trends Every Business Leader Needs to Know in 2021

 |   Microsoft Latino

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The year 2020 changed work forever. The global pandemic has impacted many lives and work dynamics, especially those in the U.S. Latino community. We have seen new models of remote work and all of the challenges that come with it. But as we mark a year into this reality, we look to the future to build on what we have learned to create a workplace where everyone can thrive within the evolving hybrid model. Two things are for sure: 73 percent of U.S. Latinos want flexible work options to continue, and the talent landscape has fundamentally shifted. Findings from Microsoft Work Trend Index show that although times have been tough, the future is bright, and the identified seven hybrid work trends signify a positive future.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but with over 40 percent of the global workforce considering leaving their employer this year according to the research, in the flexible workplace of the future leaders have an opportunity to learn from this time and drive actionable change.

 

  1. Flexible work is here to stay.

Employee expectations have changed, and many want the benefits of a hybrid working environment. Over 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while at the same time 60 percent are craving more in-person time with their teams. 73 percent of US Latino workers want flexible remote work options to continue as we continue forward. The move to a hybrid model will break the mold, and to prepare, 66 percent of business decision-makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments.

 

  1. Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call.

Research shows that business leaders are faring better than their employees. About 61 percent of leaders say they are “thriving” during this time, which is 23 percent higher than those without decision-making authority. Nevertheless, employees are feeling the disconnect, with 37 percent of the global workforce expressing their companies are asking too much of them at a time like this. Now more than ever, there’s the expectation that employers and leaders should empathize with the unique challenges imposed by this climate.

 

  1. High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce. 

The intensity of the workday, and what is expected of employees during this time, has increased significantly. Nearly one in five say their employer does not care about their work-life balance, 54 percent feel overworked, and 39 percent feel exhausted. The average number of meetings and chats are steadily rising, with 45 percent more chats per week and 42 percent more chats afterhours.

 

  1. Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized. 

An overlooked demographic appears to be suffering: Gen Z. Data shows that 60 percent of this generation – those between the ages of 18 and 25 – say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling. This generation is more likely to be single and early in their careers, making them more likely to feel the impacts of isolation, or struggle with motivation, career advancement and sharing their ideas. Ensuring that Gen Z employees feel a sense of purpose and wellbeing is an urgent business imperative in the shift to hybrid work.

 

  1. Shrinking networks are endangering innovation. 

Strong workplace networks are more than just a “nice to have.” They impact two things important to the bottom line: productivity and innovation. But the research shows that the pandemic-driven isolation people feel in their personal lives is also happening at work. We see this happening with US Latino workers, where 18 percent of employees reported more difficulties building relationships with their direct team compared to the global average (12 percent). Companies have become more siloed, with employees clinging to their immediate teams for support and have let the broader network fall to the wayside. A hybrid work model may help revive networks at work. For example, in New Zealand, as lockdown restrictions eased, team isolation – measured by interactions with weak ties – improved.

 

  1. Authenticity will spur productivity and wellbeing. 

With the advent of the global pandemic came unprecedented stress on frontline workers, balancing childcare and homeschool, working from living rooms and quieting barking dogs, and thus, something changed: work became more human. Employees were 39 percent more likely to be their full authentic self at work vs. last year. US Latino workers (24 percent) are less likely to be their authentic selves at work. People who interacted with their co-workers more closely than before also reported stronger work relationships, higher productivity and better wellbeing. While leaders have an opportunity to encourage this authenticity in the next phase of work, it is important to note that the feeling is not held by all.

 

  1. Talent is everywhere in a hybrid world. 

One of the brightest sides of the shift to remote work is a more expansive talent marketplace. Nearly half (46 percent) of employees are planning to move to a new location this year, indicating people no longer have to leave their desk, house or community to expand their career. This fundamental shift expands economic opportunity for individuals and enables organizations to build high-performing, diverse teams from a near-limitless talent pool.

These findings show why a thoughtful approach to hybrid work matters. Employees are at an inflection point and the way companies approach the next phase of work – embracing the flexibility people want to retain and learning from the challenges of the past year – will impact who stays, who goes, and who ultimately seeks to join a company.

Taken together, these trends show that we are no longer bound to traditional notions of space and time when it comes to how, when, and where we work. It’s a big mental shift – one that will require leaders and organizations to fundamentally reexamine and rewire their operating model.

In moving forward, Microsoft has identified five strategies for business leaders to rewire their operating model for the shift to hybrid work: 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; prioritize rebuilding social capital and culture; and rethink employee experience to compete for the best and most diverse talent.

There is no doubt that challenges and uncertainty lie ahead. But this moment also offers leaders a powerful opportunity to unlock new ways to achieve everything from wellbeing and work-life balance to an inclusive and authentic company culture—and experience better business outcomes along the way. If we embrace extreme flexibility, follow insights from the data, and continue listening closely to peoples’ needs, together we can create a better future of work for all.

To read more about the seven hybrid work trends and the five recommended strategies for business leaders to begin to make the shift, access the full Microsoft Work Trend Index report “The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?” here.

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