Hybrid work and crying with colleagues: The new trends Kiwi bosses can’t afford to ignore

Kiwi workplaces are still feeling the impact of Covid-19 and a year out from the pandemic an in-depth study has revealed what’s coming next.

Hybrid work – that’s a workforce with a mix of remote and office workers – is here to stay and New Zealand businesses will have to adapt, a just-released report has found.

Today Microsoft New Zealand released the local findings of its annual Work Trend Index.

Titled “The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?” the report uncovers eight hybrid work trends every business leader needs to know as we settle into a new era of work.

The report warns business leaders in New Zealand against resisting the urge to see hybrid work as “business as usual”.

“The world is on the brink of disruption as great as last year’s sudden shift to remote work,” said Russell Craig, National Technology Officer at Microsoft New Zealand.

The move to hybrid — a blended model where some employees return to the workplace and others continue to work from home has already had a major impact on how we work.

“Adapting to this new hybrid model will require a rethinking of long-held assumptions, the choices you make today will impact your organisation for years to come,” Craig said.

The 2021 Work Trend Index outlines findings from a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries, including New Zealand.

It analyses trillions of aggregate productivity and labour signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn.

It also includes perspectives from experts who have studied collaboration, social capital, and space design at work for decades.

Here are eight emerging trends:

1. Flexible work is here to stay: 71 per cent of workers in New Zealand surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue, while at the same time, 65 per cent are craving more in-person time with their teams. Business leaders (69 per cent) in New Zealand are recognising the workplace evolution and are more likely planning to redesign office space for hybrid work.

2. Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call: Research shows that 76 per cent of leaders in New Zealand say they are thriving right now but that’s in contrast to those without decision-making power of which only 41 per cent say they are thriving.

3. High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce: 51 per cent of workers in New Zealand feel overworked and 45 per cent feel exhausted.

4. Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energised: 54 per cent of this generation in New Zealand — those between the ages of 18 and 25 — say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling.

5. Shrinking networks are endangering innovation: Aggregate trends across billions of Microsoft Teams meetings and Outlook emails show interactions have suffered with the move to remote work. Around 17 per cent of workers in New Zealand experienced decreased interactions with coworkers with the move to remote work.

6. Authenticity will spur productivity and wellbeing: Coworkers leaned on each other in new ways to get through the last year. Some workers in New Zealand have cried with a colleague (20 per cent). This was especially true for workers from the healthcare industry and travel and tourism.

On the positive others have met their colleagues’ pets or families virtually (18 per cent). These increased interactions have led to 40 per cent of workers in New Zealand feeling like they can “be their full authentic selves at work this year.”

7. Talent is everywhere in a hybrid work world: More than half – 56 per cent – of those surveyed in New Zealand are planning to move to a new location this year because of remote work options. This has also led to 48 per cent of workers and 66 per cent of Gen Z in New Zealand likely to consider leaving their employers this year.

8. More employers prioritise work-life balance: 61 per cent of workers in New Zealand think that their employer cares about their work-life balance.

In addition to uncovering what’s at stake with the future of work, the Work Trend Index identifies strategies for business leaders as they begin to make the necessary shift that Craig believes are crucial.

“Business leaders need to create a plan to empower people for extreme flexibility, and invest in space and technology to bridge the physical and digital worlds,” Craig said.

They also need to combat digital exhaustion from the top, and prioritise rebuilding social capital and culture in the hybrid workplace.

“They also need to rethink employee experience to complete for the best and most diverse talent.”

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