CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, smiling while looking off camera.
Satya Nadella. Image: Microsoft

Microsoft CEO: ‘Care is the new currency’ in hybrid working

9 Sep 2021

As Microsoft delays reopening US offices, new data from the company reveals key trends in hybrid working.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has flagged “two megatrends” that are coming down the line for the world of work.

Nadella was speaking to LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky today (9 September), as both companies released data from global surveys around the topic of hybrid working. The trends Nadella and Roslansky discussed were what they called ‘the hybrid paradox’ and ‘the great reshuffle’.

“Both are converging to change the workplace unlike anything in the last 100 years or so,” said Nadella.

The hybrid paradox describes the complexities around finding the right balance in hybrid working. Nadella said that while the majority of workers want to return to having in-person contact with one another, the majority also want to retain flexibility.

Meanwhile the great reshuffle, which is arguably a less frightening version of the so-called ‘great resignation’, focuses on the fact that employees are not just making decisions about how, when and where they work, but also why they work.

Pushing back on reopening

In releasing its latest data, Microsoft has also revealed that it will delay its reopening plans for its US workforce once again.

The tech giant had already pushed its September reopening date out to 4 October. But now, the company has effectively scrapped its full reopening plans in favour of a case-by-case basis.

“Given the uncertainty of Covid-19, we’ve decided against attempting to forecast a new date for a full reopening of our US work sites in favour of opening US worksites as soon as we’re able to do so safely based on public health guidance,” said Jared Spataro, CVP for modern work at Microsoft.

“From there, we’ll communicate a 30-day transition period that provides time for employees to prepare while allowing us to continue to be agile and flexible as we look to the data and make choices to protect employee health, safety and wellbeing.”

The future is hybrid

While reopening offices in the US has proved rocky for many major companies, Irish companies are preparing for their own reopenings, with an official date from the Government of 20 September.

However, hybrid working is set to become a permanent feature of many workplaces around the world and Microsoft and LinkedIn’s latest data highlights the challenges that are coming down the line for employers.

As part of Microsoft’s Work Trend Index Pulse Report, more than 160,000 of the company’s employees were surveyed to gain insights into how they hope to work in the future.

One notable finding was the difference between managers and non-managerial employees. While managers plan to come into the office more often than their non-managerial counterparts once offices open back up, some employees plan to come in more than managers expect.

According to LinkedIn, which surveyed more than 500 C-level executives from US and UK organisations, more than 71pc of leaders have felt under pressure to change working models and adapt workplace policies to allow for greater flexibility.

This will come as no surprise as conversations around hybrid and remote working remain top of the agenda for many companies, and LinkedIn also found that 87pc of employees would prefer to stay remote at least half of the time.

Bar chart revealing how often employees plan to go into the office.

Infographic: Microsoft

Roslansky said that the most telling data to support the importance of flexibility is the continued growth of remote jobs posted on LinkedIn.

“The share of remote job posts on LinkedIn grew more than 8.5 times since the start of the pandemic, increasing from 1.9pc of global job posts in March 2020 to 16.3pc in August 2021,” he said.

Along with its data around hybrid working, Microsoft also revealed a number of new features in its Teams and Office products to aid hybrid offices, including AI-powered active speaker tracking to recognise who is speaking a room and a new RSVP feature that allows employees to select whether they will attend a meeting remotely or in-person.

The need for great management

Nadella also spoke about the importance of managers during this transition period and how good managers with coaching mindsets will be key to the new way of working.

“If [there was] any time great management was at a premium, it was last year and a half,” he said. “Leaders needed to step up to create and keep the continuity of the connection.”

He said empathy in managers is probably at the highest demand today and that care became everything.

“If there’s any piece of advice even going into this world of the hybrid paradox and the great reshuffle, that’s what’s going to be what’s most needed,” he said.

“Flexibility is what people desire but you need to be able to discern that flexibility and then be able to really be in touch with the people that you lead so that would be care. Care is the new currency.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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