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5 approaches to make hybrid work truly work

5 approaches to make hybrid work truly work
Geeta Gurnani, Country Head – Modern Work, Microsoft India
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The past year has witnessed massive changes at work – the how, where, and when of work is changing, and so is the why. Every organization now is coming up with a unique approach to meet its people’s needs. According to the second annual Microsoft Work Trend Index Report 2022, 67% of Indian leaders say their company plans to require full-time in-person work and 67% of Indian employees are considering going hybrid or remote in the year ahead. 

A reimagination of the hybrid workplace will require new categories of technology to empower people, encompassing the ways they work, the places from where they work, and the approach to business processes. The future of work is here and now – and leaders need to adopt new approaches to make the hybrid workplace experience more meaningful for each employee. 

  1. Model flexibility in every context: Employees want the best of both worlds. Work is no longer tied to a single address. It will be imperative to ensure employees have extreme flexibility to work when and where they want and are equipped with the tech tools they need to equally contribute from wherever they happen to be. No two people will have similar work styles; so organizations will need to find ways to accommodate that diversity and enable everyone to invest in a shared environment. Microsoft Teams was built with the very purpose of enabling flexible, boundary-less work for employees to collaborate before, during, and after the meeting. With over 270 million people using Teams every month, it enables employees to manage flexible work with ease. It serves as a hub for teamwork and brings together apps, communication tools, and shared spaces that groups are already using. 
  2. Rebuild the employee experience: There is evidence and empirical data linking employee experience to business value. Companies with great employee experience (i.e., low work complexity, and strong behavioral norms for collaboration, creativity, and empowerment) were more innovative and profitable and had higher levels of customer satisfaction. People are no longer choosing a job based solely on location and a paycheck. They want purpose, flexibility, growth and development, and a culture where they feel like they belong. They want to make an impact—make a difference—and they want more work-life balance. In short, they want a better employee experience. Employee experience platforms can create a digital fabric that connects teams through shared knowledge and culture, wherever they are in the physical or digital space. Since Microsoft launched its Employee Experience platform - Viva -a year ago, it has over 10 million monthly active users now – with companies witnessing significant business impact by prioritizing employee well-being. Internally, at Microsoft in a year when we sent 160,000 people home to work and remotely onboarded 25,000 new employees, 90% of employees reported feeling included at Microsoft. 
  3. Promote inclusive workplaces: Organizations need to ensure that no matter where employees work, they feel like they belong and they’re being included in conversations. They need to be focused on building places & experiences that are designed to ensure all voices are heard including the people not in the room—empowering everyone to connect and engage, from anywhere and at any time. Having a beyond-binary mindset into practice helps create opportunities for ownership, whether through chat or collaborative cloud apps or asynchronous meeting experiences that bring people together in new ways. The risk of hybrid meetings is that in-person attendees become anonymous faces in a room, while remote attendees are left speaking into a void, not knowing if they are seen or heard, or how to jump in and take a turn. Microsoft Teams and Teams Meeting Rooms continue to evolve to help put everyone on an equal footing in meetings. We’ve also developed hybrid meeting guidance to help ensure that remote and in-person meeting attendees feel equally empowered to participate. Meeting rooms and team culture will need to evolve so that all voices are heard. 
  4. Prioritize social capital and culture: Broadening networks and building social capital take effort in any work environment, but it’s even more difficult in a hybrid world. Teams must reframe network-building from being passive to a proactive effort, encourage and reward managers to prioritize building social capital at work, and seek to create a culture where social support thrives. Through Microsoft Viva, we’re bringing together one-to-one and one-to-many communications to keep everyone engaged and informed and maintain that connection between employees and the company and its mission. With Viva Connections, Microsoft is helping promote communications across the workplace, all from one central location. 
  5. Focus on well-being: Digital overload is rising: the time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings has more than doubled globally, 62% of Teams calls and meetings are unscheduled or conducted ad hoc and the average Teams meeting is 10 minutes longer, up from 35 to 45 minutes year-over-year. Well-being is ultimately a function of biology and psychology. Two out of three employees in India say they’re more likely to prioritize their health and wellbeing overwork than before the pandemic. We cannot ignore the basics: everyone needs enough sleep, daily exercise, healthy food, and hydration. High-quality, loving connections with people outside of work must be a top priority. Microsoft’s Viva Insights improves wellbeing with data-driven, privacy-protected insights and recommendations. It explores ways to build better work habits and prioritize wellbeing with actionable recommendations such as reserving time for focused work. As we all navigate the ebb and flow of hybrid work, leaders need to focus on keeping these foundational elements within reach of their teams—and themselves. 

These trends may seem daunting but they create an opportunity for organizations to build new workplace norms that not only lead to greater fulfillment for employees but also better business outcomes. Organizations must move beyond long-held assumptions and shift their model to embrace extreme flexibility. We should take what we’ve learned from the past and use this to chart a path forward to make hybrid work truly work. 

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