A new Microsoft survey identifies the various elements that employers need to be mindful of if they are to retain talent during the transition to hybrid working.

According to a new survey conducted by Microsoft, almost three-quarters of workers (73 per cent) want flexible remote work options to continue post-pandemic. Over two-thirds (67 per cent) also desired to spend more in-person time with their teams, indicating a strong desire for hybrid working moving forward.

However, newfound flexibility brought on by the pandemic has also enabled employees to consider their choices – with 46 per cent of the global workforce considering leaving their employers this year. This indicates that hybrid working is a transition employers must get right if they wish to keep and attract top talent.

In particular, the report stressed that employers need to empathise with their employees as the pandemic continues. It was business leaders, largely Millennials or Gen X, male, information workers, and being far ahead in their career, who were most likely to report they were thriving during the pandemic (61 per cent).

Conversely, groups such as working mothers (54 per cent), Gen Z (60 per cent), frontline workers (61 per cent) and new employees that had been at their firm for less than a year (64 per cent) were much more likely to report that they were struggling.

As such, the report advises that leaders should make an active effort to empathise with employees, initiating conversations to understand how staff are coping and identify areas where employers can help more.

Another way employers can help staff is encouraging them to take breaks and cultivate an effective work-life balance. Over half (54 per cent) of the global workforce said they felt overworked whilst almost two-fifths (39 per cent) reported feeling exhausted.

Furthermore, disconnect with employers was particularly felt here with almost one in five global survey respondents saying their employer does not care about their work-life balance.

Dr. Mary Donohue, Founder of The Digital Wellness Centre, advised that, to reduce risk of burnout, staff should “take a few minutes every day to have quiet”. This gives employees a break from “digital overload”, a term used to describe the enormous rise in time spent in meetings and chats over the past year.

A final finding from Microsoft included the need for more support for Gen Z. For this generation and for those starting out in their careers, this time has been deemed as “very disruptive”.

George Anders, LinkedIn Senior Editor-at-Large, said:

It’s very hard [for Gen Z] to find their footing since they’re not experiencing the in-person onboarding, networking, and training that they would have expected in a normal year.

The report calls for employers to ensure that Gen Z feels a sense of purpose and wellbeing as an urgent business imperative in the shift to hybrid.

Microsoft identifies key points that employers should implement moving forward to make hybrid working successful:

  • Creating a plan to empower people for extreme flexibility
  • Investing in space and technology to bridge the physical and digital worlds
  • Combatting digital exhaustion from the top
  • Rebuilding social capital is a business imperative
  • Rethinking employee experience to compete for the best and most diverse talent

The conclusion of the report states:

The choices leaders make in this next phase of hybrid work will impact an organisation’s ability to compete for the best talent, drive creativity and innovation, and create an inclusive work environment for years to come. It will require a significant mental shift to rewire your operating model to meet new employee expectations.

There’s no doubt that challenge and uncertainty lie ahead. But this moment also offers leaders a powerful opportunity to unlock new ways to achieve everything from wellbeing and work-life balance to an inclusive and authentic company culture — and experience better business outcomes along the way. If we embrace extreme flexibility, follow data insights, and continue listening closely to employee needs, together we can create a better future of work for everyone.


*The Work Trend Index survey was conducted by Edelman Data x Intelligence, an independent research firm, among 31,092 full-time employed or self-employed workers across 31 markets between January 12, 2021 to January 25, 2021. The full report can be found here.