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Microsoft report: ‘Productivity paranoia’ makes hybrid work unsustainable

23 Sep 2022

According to the tech giant’s latest Work Trend Index Pulse report, employees and employers are divided about the effectiveness of hybrid work.

Leaders are concerned that employees are not as productive when working from home. That’s according to a new major survey from Microsoft.

The company’s latest Work Trend Index Pulse report surveyed 20,000 people in 11 countries and analysed trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals, along with LinkedIn labour trends and Glint People Science findings.

The majority of employees surveyed (87pc) said that they are productive at work and the report said Microsoft 365 productivity signals such as Teams meetings, messages and other use of Microsoft products continue to climb.

In fact, the company said overlapping meetings increased by 46pc per person in the past year and, in an average week, 42pc of participants multitask during meetings by actively sending an email or instant messages – and that doesn’t include practices such as reading emails, working on offline files, or web activity.

However, while the report suggests that employees are working harder, there is distrust among their bosses.

According to the report, 85pc of leaders said hybrid working has made it difficult to have confidence that employees are being productive.

Microsoft added that some organisations are using technology to track employee activity rather than outputs, which can create a need for digital presenteeism among workers.

“This has led to productivity paranoia: where leaders fear that lost productivity is due to employees not working, even though hours worked, number of meetings, and other activity metrics have increased,” the company said.

“Productivity paranoia risks making hybrid work unsustainable.”

Return to the office

Amid the debates around hybrid working, a return to offices has also been a bone of contention for many companies, including major tech firms such as Apple.

In Microsoft’s survey, 82pc of business decision makers said getting employees back to the office is a concern in the coming year.

However, both employees and decision makers agreed that they need a better reason to go into the office than just company expectations.

One area that may be used to entice employees back to the office is the ability to re-engage with colleagues and rebuild social bonds.

More than 80pc of employees surveyed said they would be motivated by the promise of socialising with co-workers, while 85pc would be motivated by rebuilding team bonds.

Almost three-quarter of employees also said they would go to the office more often if they knew their direct team members or their work friends would be there.

Microsoft said organisations that fail to use in-person time to rebuild and strengthen team bonds may risk losing out on attracting and retaining top talent.

Learning and development

Microsoft’s report also found that employees are “hungry for growth opportunities”. More than half of employees surveyed said there are not enough growth opportunities in their company to make them want to stay long term.

Employees also believe that the best way to develop skills is to switch companies. This figure climbs as people rise through the ranks, with 51pc of lower and entry-level workers believing this, 66pc of upper and mid-level managers, and almost 70pc of executives.

This correlates with a recent report from Pluralsight, which found that 40pc of respondents that leave a role do so because of a lack of career growth.

Speaking to recently, Pluralsight’s Evanna Kearins said: “To stop this from happening, offering learning and development opportunities that are tailored to the goals and ambitions for all employees throughout their career is paramount.”

In Ireland, a separate survey released this week by the Irish Management Institute and Cork University Business School found that staff engagement a key concern for 37pc of Irish business leaders.

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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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