With around 40% of the global workforce considering leaving their current jobs in 2021, employers need to be incredibly thoughtful about how they approach the new world of work.
Dubbed hybrid work, the new prevailing approach sees employees being given the freedom and flexibility to divide their time between working in an office and working remotely.
Microsoft’s recent Work Trend Index Report shows that flexible work is here to stay. Based on surveys from over 30 000 workers, in 31 countries, and drawing on data pulled from applications like Teams, Outlook and Office 365, the report also reveals that hybrid work is hard.
Speaking at the virtual Microsoft 365 Summit: Future of Hybrid Work event recently, Ibrahim Youssry, regional general manager for the Middle East and Africa Multi-Country Region at Microsoft, explained that companies must approach this next phase of work quite carefully because it will fundamentally impact who stays, who goes, and who seeks to join their teams.
According to Youssry, one must not forget that the mass move to remote working has had several downsides. For starters, an influx of virtual meetings and digital communication is causing employees to experience digital exhaustion.
And a lack of spontaneous interaction can result in very siloed thinking because there is little opportunity for people from different teams to collaborate around how to solve a problem or to share creative ideas.
Think flexibility, culture, and inclusion
How you shape your business culture going forward, what you do to attract and retain talent, how you respond to changes in your working environment and how you approach future innovation will all be key to success in the coming years, noted Youssry.
He continued by outlining three interventions that businesses can implement to ensure that they get hybrid work right: enabling extreme flexibility; taking a proactive approach to company culture; and prioritising inclusion.
While this might make some feel uncomfortable, it’s important for organisations to sit down with their employees and take the time to find out what everyone needs to be as efficient and productive as possible.
Youssry mentions that this will likely be different for each person and for each team. As such, coming up with policies that suit everyone requires a lot of time and careful consideration ahead of enabling extreme flexibility.
As for company culture, team-building efforts must be proactive, not passive, he says. It’s critical to invest in strategies and technologies that bridge the gap between the digital and the physical worlds so that those working remotely don’t feel disconnected from those working in the office and vice versa.
To break down siloed thinking, your teams must be presented with opportunities to brainstorm, collaborate, and share ideas – no matter where they are located.
Inclusion is a non-negotiable priority. When you consider that one billion people with disabilities around the world have been disproportionately impacted due to the pandemic, it is every employer’s responsibility to prioritise their inclusion, explained Youssry.
“In today’s workplace, it has never been more important to include everyone. Accessibility is the vehicle to inclusion,” he said, noting that there really are no limits to what people can achieve when technology reflects the diversity of everyone who uses it.
He detailed that Microsoft’s investments in AI aim to put emerging technologies in the hands of developers so that they can accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions, designed by and in collaboration with people with disabilities.
“Just like everyone else, we at Microsoft have never done this before,” he concluded. “We’ve used this period as an opportunity to grow and evolve our workplace so that we can deliver capabilities that help our employees, customers and business thrive.”