According to Microsoft’s second annual Work Trend Index report, half of global leaders are planning a full-scale return to the office in the near future, despite a growing desire among employees to work flexibly.
The survey, which compiles feedback from 31,000 people in 31 countries and also factors in user data from Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn, reveals that as hybrid work becomes standard practice, a growing number of workers are putting their wellbeing first.
With the employee/employer power dynamic continuing to shift, these findings suggest that if business leaders don’t embrace flexible solutions soon, they could risk losing their top talent.
Half of Leaders Are Planning a Full Return to the Office
After two years of COVID-19 induced disruption, hybrid working finally feels like the new normal for many. But before workers become accustomed to switching between the home and the office, a new survey from Microsoft suggests that many employers have other plans.
The Trend Index Report, released this Wednesday, concluded that 50% of business leaders already require, or will soon require, employees to return to the office full time by the end of this year. The percentage was even higher within the manufacturing (55%), retail (54%) and consumer goods (53%) industries.
43% of leaders say relationship-building is the greatest challenge in remote and hybrid work
While the motivations behind these figures vary, over half of leaders believe productivity levels were impacted by the move away from the office, while 43% cited relationship building as the biggest problem associated with hybrid and remote working.
As employers stress the importance of physical attendance, managers appear to be less certain, with 54% admitting that their current leadership is out of touch with employee expectations. However, with three quarters feeling like they lack the influence to implement significant changes in their team, it’s unlikely their concerns will be enough to swing the pendulum.
Workers Are Seeking a Healthier Work Life Balance
The past year has exposed countless employees to the concept of flexible working, from adapting office hours to working remotely.
As these practices rise in popularity, people's attitudes towards their working lives are changing, with the Microsoft report revealing that 47% of respondents now put family and personal life ahead of their work.
But priorities aren’t limited to employees' families, with the survey also revealing 53% of respondents are now more likely to priotitize their own health and wellbeing over work.
“By not commuting, I have more time to spend with my family and more time for daily things, like cooking a meal and eating together.” – Employee working in professional services, United States
If you run a business or manage teams, these findings shouldn’t come as a surprise. The results of the survey point towards a growing preference for flexible working that’s been on the rise for years. And with the favourability rates even higher among the millennial and Gen-Z generations, it doesn’t look like traditional practices will be returning to the workplace any time soon.
Employers Should Take Return to Office Concerns Seriously
There's no denying that most business leaders have valid reasons for wanting employees to return to the office. However, as data from the survey suggests, introducing some flexible measures is likely to benefit them as much as their workers.
The report found that 43% of workers are likely to quit their job in the next year, indicating that employees aren't afraid to leave a job that doesn't meet their priorities. Among the reasons for leaving, queries around personal mental health, work life balance, and lack of flexible working were some of the biggest motivators for staff.
This data suggests that the mass resignation is far from being over, and it may just be entering a new phase. Therefore, in a time where labor shortages are rife and top talent is hard to come by, business leaders should be doing everything they can to retain their quality personnel.
If you're concerned that your staff might be getting restless, here are some ways to get them back on board:
- Listen to your staff – Communication with your workforce should go both ways. By listening to your workers concerns and queries, you can create a workplace that's more suited to their needs and desires.
- Check in with your employees regularly – No one likes to feel left their on their own. Even if no concerns have been flagged, touching base with your team is an excellent way to gain feedback and improve morale.
- Utilize digital solutions – If your teams are working remotely, stay connected with communication tools like Slack and Google Chat. On a budget? Rest assured, there are loads of affordable and free ways to stay connected too.