Have we reached an inflection point on journey to hybrid work?

In this WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing, we explore what Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trends Index tells us about the future of hybrid work and meet six workplace archetypes from Bain & Company

As companies around the world pilot a range of different options for flexible work, are we now passing the point of no return on the journey to hybrid working? According to Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trends Index, newly released this month, we’ve reached a long-awaited inflection point which means the workplace won’t ever be quite the same again.

Based on a large-scale study of 31,000 people in 31 countries, along with an analysis of productivity signals in Microsoft 365 and labour trends on LinkedIn, Microsoft reports that ‘the lived experience of hybrid work’ is on the rise – up to 38 per cent of the workforce, an increase of seven points on 2021. More than half of all workers (53 per cent) are likely to consider transitioning to hybrid this year.

After patchy progress frequently stalled by different variants of the virus, hybrid is now swinging into view for millions of employees as companies place themselves somewhere on a spectrum between hardly hybrid and hyper hybrid. For Millennial and Gen Z cohorts in particular, there is no going back.

‘More than half of all workers are now more likely to prioritise wellbeing over work than before the pandemic…’

How priorities have shifted can be seen in the findings of the Index: more than half of all workers (53 per cent) are now more likely to prioritise health and wellbeing over work than before the pandemic. Microsoft describes employees as having a new ‘worth it’ equation, reflecting a shift in the power dynamics of work.

Caught in the middle between unreformed company leaders and revised employee expectations are managers – three quarters of them (74 per cent) say they don’t have the influence or resources to make change for employees. Around half of managers (54 per cent) say leadership is out of touch. Half of all leaders are planning to mandate full-time in-person attendance in the office for their people, according to the Index. This brings them into conflict with the large numbers of workers considering moving to hybrid this year, who might well move jobs.

Leaders will have a tough time making the office worth the commute. Nearly one in four hybrid workers say their biggest challenge is knowing when and why they should come into the office. Few companies (just 28 per cent) have established team agreements to clearly define the new norms, according to the Index findings.

Digital overload and exhaustion also remains a risk with hybrid – Microsoft data shows an increase in the working day and a rise in after-hours work. The average user of Microsoft Teams, for example, has spent 252 per cent more time in online meetings than before the pandemic in February 2020. As new norms develop around flexible work, employees need to be able to escape the ‘always-on’ mindset and switch off, says Microsoft.

There should also be renewed focus on rebuilding relationships at work – social capital eroded during the pandemic is slow to recover in the hybrid model and needs to be prioritised. Read a report about Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trends Index here.

From average to archetype

Hybrid policies are often implemented based on the number of days the average employee expects to be in the office. However, new research from professional services firm Bain & Company suggests that ‘there’s no such thing as average – we need to think in archetypes’.

The research, entitled ‘The Working Future’ and presented at The Economist event [email protected] in London on 29 March 2022, studied six archetypes to understand how and where the workforce should work. The first two archetypes represent 60 per cent of the workforce: they are the ‘operators’ and the ‘givers’. Operators find meaning outside of work, but they are great team players making them the dependable backbone of any firm. Givers find value in work that directly improves the lives of others. They bring a human touch to their firms.

Other archetypes include ‘Artisans’ and ‘Explorers’. Artisans want to master their craft, be autonomous, and engage with work that excites them. Explorers seek variety, different experiences, and they are willing to trade security for flexibility.

The final archetypes are ‘Strivers’ and ‘Pioneers’. Strivers are ambitious and competitive. They minimise uncertainty through rigorous forward planning. Pioneers want to reshape the world – they identify with their work and seek opportunities to turn visions into reality. A quarter of US executives are considered pioneers.

The Bain & Company research argues that every firm in every geography needs to include a diverse range of archetypes to operate successfully. Understanding the type of workers within an organisation will help define the type of hybrid strategies that will help employees thrive.

Join the conversation live

Interested in the issues discussed in this WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing? Then check out our WORKTECH events calendar for 2022 to engage in the big conversation on the future of work and the workplace.

The WORKTECH conference returns to Munich on Tuesday 31 May 2022 at Design Offices München Atlas. Join senior professionals from real estate, facilities, HR, technology, architecture and design to learn from global thought-leaders at such companies as Telefonica, Accenture, BVN, Gensler and more. Secure a EUR 199 Super Early Bird ticket and explore the programme here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 30 March 2022.
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