Hybrid Work Trends Businesses Need to Know in 2021

As governments and businesses make plans to “reopen”, for lack of a better term, after over a year of living in pandemic mode, one thing we are certain of is that the hybrid work model is here to stay in one form or another. 

Although, the definition of hybrid work will probably differ from one business to another and from one industry to another, businesses need to know and understand what some of the trends are to better prepare. 

Microsoft commissioned a survey earlier this year that provides some insights. We will summarize them below and take a deeper look at these trends and how they will affect businesses. 

1. The best of both worlds 

As we stated earlier, hybrid work will continue. In the survey by Edelman Data x Intelligence commissioned by Microsoft, 73% of the workers surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue while 67% of those surveyed wanted more in-person time with their team. The survey also revealed that to prepare and address these requirements, 66% of business decision makers were considering redesigning the physical office spaces to accommodate the hybrid work environments.  

Basically, employees are looking for more control of where, when, and how they work. The decisions business leaders make in the coming months to enable the hybrid workplace will impact everything from the organizational culture to attracting and retaining top talent. 

2. The disconnect between business leaders and their people 

While many of the business leaders survey in the Edelman survey feel that they are thriving and their relationships with their colleagues are strong, 37% of the global workforce feel that their companies are asking too much from them. The important cues that business leaders can pick up on when they physically see their employees in the hallways or in the lunchroom are lost in the virtual world.  

Employees are looking for their employers to empathize with their unique challenges while business leaders may be missing those all-important cues that help them get the pulse of their employees. 

3. Productivity at a cost 

The intensity of workers’ days has increased substantially as evidenced by some of the below collaboration trends measured in Microsoft 365 between February 2020 and February 2021: 

  • The time spent by workers in Microsoft Teams meetings has increased 2.5 times and continues to increase. 
  • The average teams meeting is 10 minutes longer year over year. Teams meetings have increased from 35 minutes to 45 minutes. 
  • On average, Teams users are sending 45% more chats per week and 42% more chats per person after hours. The chats per week continue to increase. 
  • Most of the communications is unplanned with 62% of Teams calls and meetings unscheduled or being had on an ad hoc basis. 

Despite the substantial increase in meetings and chats, 50% of employees respond to Teams chats within 5 minutes or less which remains unchanged year over year. This indicates that the intensity and expectations of the workday for employees has increased substantially. 

Business leaders need to keep the impact of this increased intensity and expectations in mind as employees report exhaustion and burn out. 

4. Gen Z 

Gen Z is defined as those between the ages of 18 and 25. This is, as you might expect, a generation that is more likely to be single and early in their career, which would more likely lead to an increased impact from isolation, being motivated at work and having the financial means to set up a proper work from home set up. They report struggling with work-life balance and feeling more exhausted after a workday. They have trouble feeling engaged, participating in meetings and bringing new ideas to the table.  

Business leaders need to understand this generation and take their challenges seriously. They bring new perspectives and challenge the status quo making their contributions to the growth of a business critical. 

5. Siloed teams 

The isolation that people are feeling during the pandemic from a personal perspective spilled into their work lives as well. Although collaboration and communications between immediate teams increased with remote work, interactions with colleagues or people outside our immediate team decreased.  

This is an important trend to take into consideration as this impacts two very important areas for businesses: productivity and innovation. Business leaders need to make efforts to ensure that workplace relationships and inclusion are strong amongst their different teams. 

6. Work became more human 

Something changed over the last year as people juggled with childcare, homeschool, dogs barking and working from the kitchen table. Work became more human. Co-workers got to know each other in ways that were very different from the pre-pandemic days. Colleagues leaned on each other to get through the challenges and these genuine interactions help foster workplaces where employees feel comfortable being themselves.  

Business leaders need to understand that these more personal interactions have the power to drive inclusion, productivity and innovation today and in the future. 

7. Expanded talent pool 

One of the more positive results of the move to remote work is the expansion of the talent pool for both businesses and workers.  

Businesses understood that their employees don’t need to be in their office to contribute to the success of their businesses. This meant that the employee could be based anywhere which opened up the talent pool.  

For workers, it means that they don’t need to uproot to pursue new opportunities. Conversely, they realized they can move to wherever they and their families feel is best for them without giving up professional opportunities.  

One important takeaway from these trends is that the approach to hybrid work by business leaders will impact the ability to attract and retain top talent. The survey from Edelman Data x Intelligence indicated that 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer. Business leaders need to understand the hybrid work trends and plan accordingly. 

MicroAge can help you provide the technology and tools your employees need to work in a hybrid workplace. Contact us today to see how we can help you. 

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