Missing Collaborations And Social Interactions, True Reasons For Heading Back To Offices: Report

Meanwhile, among employees who say they plan to spend a similar share of their time working at home (more than 90%), an identical 58% cite “focused work” as the reason


Amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, the world is also experiencing monumental shifts in the ways we work. Microsoft’s annual Work Trend Index survey data exposed what CEO, Satya Nadella, calls the Hybrid Paradox: People want the flexibility to work from anywhere, but they simultaneously crave more in-person connection.

Microsoft asked employees how often they plan to work from home versus in the office once a full return to in-person work becomes possible and their reason for their answer as well. The findings indicated that remote work has had a range of impacts, both positive and negative. Moving forward into hybrid work, the focus of organizations should be on the learning efforts to determining how organizations can support flexibility while strengthening the human connection and promoting well-being. 

Topping the list of reasons to work in the office was a collaboration with coworkers (70%) and social interaction (61%). The preferred reasons to work from home were skipping the commute (61%) and maintaining a healthier work-life balance (59%). These numbers demonstrate the Hybrid Paradox in action: Employees have missed one another and what can be accomplished together in person. At the same time, employees want to hold on to the perceived well-being benefits of working from home.

Deeper in the data, however, Microsoft employees’ reasons for working in one place versus another start to fragment and become contradictory. Some employees (12%) cite work-life balance as a reason to come into the office, while others identify this as a reason to stay home (59%). Some (23%) say the ability to conduct online meetings makes working from home a desirable option, while others believe team collaboration is a reason to be together in person (70%). Among employees who say they plan to spend the highest share of their working time at the office (more than 90%), 58% cite “focused work” as a top reason. Meanwhile, among employees who say they plan to spend a similar share of their time working at home (more than 90%), an identical 58% cite “focused work” as the reason.

But it goes deeper. Sending everyone home to work was a catalyst for people to reexamine their relationship with work, resulting in deep, structural changes to employee expectations. As employees learned to work differently over the past 18 months, they are rethinking not only how, when, and where they work, but why.

What is the ideal work style? Microsoft’s findings confirm that there’s no one answer. Different people have different styles and different needs. The organizations that succeed will find ways to accommodate different work styles as the path to helping everyone do their best work.

“Our new data shows there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid work, as employee expectations continue to change. The only way for organizations to solve for this complexity is to embrace flexibility across their entire operating model, including the ways people work, the places they inhabit, and how they approach the business process.” said Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO, Microsoft.

In short, some employees cite work-life balance, focus time, and meetings as reasons to go into the office, while others cite those same considerations as reasons to stay home. Through polar opposite work styles, they’re seeking the same benefit.

In the Great Reshuffle, organizations that respect and empower these differences won’t just see greater success at recruiting and retaining talent. They’re likely to find that in enabling such autonomy, they’ll help everyone become more effective and productive in their work.


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